The original hierarchy of Anunnaki designations runs in increments of five from 5 to 60, allowing space for the “Olympian Twelve” to be plotted thereupon. The Sumerian Anunnaki Pantheon of Twelve consists of Anu (60), Antu (55), Enlil (50), Ninlil (45), Enki (40), Ninki-Damkina (35), Nanna (30), Ningal (25), Shammash (20), Inanna-Ishtar (15), Ishkur-Adad (10) and Ninhursag-Ninmah (5).
– Sky: An-Uranus (Caelus)
– Height and distance: Enlil
Ninurta – Chronus (Saturn)
Nergal – Ares (Mars), Hades (Pluto)
– World order: Enki/Nabu-Hermes (Mercury)
– Moon: Nanna-Selene/Artemis (Luna/Diana)
– Sun: Shamash- Helios/Apollo (Sol/Apollo)
– Thunder: Ishkur/Marduk-Zeus (Jupiter)
When Enlil rose to equal or surpass An in authority, the functions of the two deities came to some extent to overlap. An was also sometimes equated with Amurru, and, in Seleucid Uruk, with Enmešara (Nergal) and Dumuzi.
Dingir is a Sumerian word for “god.” Its cuneiform sign is most commonly employed as the determinative for “deity” although it has related meanings as well. The sign in Sumerian cuneiform (DIĜIR) by itself represents the Sumerian word an (“sky” or “heaven”), the ideogram for An or the word diĝir (“god”), the supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon.
In Assyrian cuneiform, it (AN, DIĜIR) could be either an ideogram for “deity” (ilum) or a syllabogram for an, or ìl-. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again an.
The concept of “divinity” in Sumerian is closely associated with the heavens, as is evident from the fact that the cuneiform sign doubles as the ideogram for “sky”, and that its original shape is the picture of a star. The original association of “divinity” is thus with “bright” or “shining” hierophanies in the sky.
The Sumerian sign DIĜIR originated as a star-shaped ideogram indicating a god in general, or the Sumerian god An, the supreme father of the gods. Dingir also meant sky or heaven in contrast with ki which meant earth. Its emesal pronunciation was dimer.
Latin deus consistently translates Greek theos in both the Vetus Latina and Jerome’s Vulgate. In the Septuagint, Greek theos in turn renders Hebrew Elohim. The word de-us is the root of Deity, and thereby of deism, pandeism, panendeism, and polydeism, ironically all of which are theories in which any divine figure is absent from intervening in human affairs.
Dyēus is believed to have been the chief deity in the religious traditions of the prehistoric Proto-Indo-European societies. Part of a larger pantheon, he was the god of the daylight sky, and his position may have mirrored the position of the patriarch or monarch in society. In his aspect as a father god, his consort would have been Pltwih Méhter, “earth mother”.
Dīs Pater was a Roman god of the underworld, later subsumed by Pluto or Hades (Hades was Greek). Originally a chthonic god of riches, fertile agricultural land, and underground mineral wealth, he was later commonly equated with the Roman deities Pluto and Orcus, becoming an underworld deity.
Cicero in his De Natura Deorum derives the name of Dīs Pater from dives, suggesting a meaning of “father of riches”, directly corresponding to the name Pluto (from Greek Ploutōn, meaning “wealthy”). Alternatively, he may be a secondary reflex of the same god as Jupiter (Proto-Indo-European Dyeus Phter).
According to some 19th century authors many of Cicero’s etymological derivations are not to be taken seriously, and may indeed have been intended ironically, however, this particular derivation of Cicero’s has been accepted by some contemporary authors, some even suggesting that Dīs Pater is a direct loan translation of Ploutōn.
Plutus (Greek: Ploutos, literally “wealth”) was the god of wealth in ancient Greek religion and myth. He was the son of Demeter and Iasion, with whom she lay in a thrice-ploughed field. In the theology of the Eleusinian Mysteries he was regarded as the “Divine Child.” His relation to the classical ruler of the underworld Pluto, with whom he is often conflated, is complex, as Pluto was also a god of wealth and money.
In the philosophized mythology of the later Classical period, Plutus is envisaged by Aristophanes as blinded by Zeus, so that he would be able to dispense his gifts without prejudice; he is also lame, as he takes his time arriving, and winged, so he leaves faster than he came. When the god’s sight is restored, in Aristophanes’ comedy, he is then able to determine who is deserving of wealth, creating havoc.
Among the Eleusinian figures painted on Greek ceramics, regardless of whether he is depicted as child or youthful ephebe, Plutus can be identified as the one bearing the cornucopia—horn of plenty. In later allegorical bas-reliefs, Plutus is depicted as a boy in the arms of Eirene, as Prosperity is the gift of “Peace”, or in the arms of Tyche, the Fortune of Cities.
In being conflated with Pluto, Dīs Pater took on some of the Greek mythological attributes of Pluto/Hades, being one of the three sons of Saturn (Greek: Cronus) and Ops (Greek: Rhea), along with Jupiter and Neptune. He ruled the underworld and the dead beside his wife, Proserpina (Greek: Persephone). In literature, Dīs Pater was commonly used as a symbolic and poetic way of referring to death itself.
It is often thought that Dīs Pater was also a Celtic god. This confusion arises from the second-hand citation of one of Julius Caesar’s comments in his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars VI:18, where he says that the Gauls all claimed descent from Dīs Pater.
However, Caesar’s remark is a clear example of interpretatio Romana: what Caesar meant was that the Gauls all claimed descent from a Gaulish god that reminded him of the Roman Dīs Pater, that is, a chthonic deity associated with prosperity and fertility.
In addition to being considered the ancestor of the Gauls, Dīs Pater was sometimes identified with the Sabine god Soranus, worshipped on Mt. Soracte in Etruria. The area was sacred to underworld gods, such as Dis Pater.
The worshippers of Apollo Soranus, after his cult had been subsumed by Apollo, were called Hirpi Sorani (“wolves of Soranus”, from Sabine hirpus “wolf”). They were firewalkers and carried about the entrails of the victims during ceremonies.
Soranus was identified with Dis, the Roman god of the underworld, or with Apollo, a Greek god adopted by the Romans, and had a female partner, Feronia, a goddess associated with wildlife, fertility, health and abundance, whose sanctuary was located next to his.
Libertas – Liber and Libera
Varro identified Feronia with Libertas, the goddess who personified Liberty. According to Servius, Feronia was a tutelary goddess of freedmen (dea libertorum). Slaves who had just been freed might go to the shrine at Terracina and receive upon their shaved heads the pileus, a brimless, felt cap worn in Ancient Greece and surrounding regions, later also introduced in Ancient Rome, that symbolized their liberty.
The pileus was especially associated with the manumission of slaves, who wore it upon their liberation. It became emblematic of liberty and freedom from bondage. During the classic revival of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe it was widely confused with the Phrygian cap, (a similarly conical cap but which has the point softened and pulled forward) which, in turn, appeared frequently on statuary and heraldic devices as a “liberty cap.”
The fictional characters Columbia of the United States and Marianne of France, the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor and many other characters and concepts of the modern age were created, and are seen, as embodiments of Libertas.
The goddess Libertas is also depicted on the Great Seal of France, created in 1848. This is the image which later influenced French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi in the creation of his statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.
Libera was a goddess of wine, fertility and freedom. She was the female equivalent of Liber (freedom), while her name is in the feminine form. At some time during Rome’s Regal or very early Republican eras, she became paired up with Liber, also known as Liber Pater (The Free Father), Roman god of wine, male fertility, and a guardian of plebeian freedoms.
She enters Roman history as Triadic cult companion to Ceres and Liber, in a temple established on the Aventine Hill ca. 493 BC. The location and context of this early cult mark her association with Rome’s commoner-citizens, or plebs; she might have been offered cult on March 17 as part of Liber’s festival, Liberalia, or at some time during the seven days of Cerealia (mid to late April); in the latter festival she would have been subordinate to Ceres. Otherwise, her relationship to her Aventine cult partners is uncertain.
The Liberalia (17 March) is the festival of Liber Pater and his consort Libera. The Romans celebrated Liberalia with sacrifices, processions, ribald and gauche songs, and masks which were hung on trees.
With the institution of the ritus graecia cereris (Greek rites of Ceres) c.205 BC, Libera was officially identified with Ceres’ daughter Proserpina and acquired with her a Romanised form of Greek mystery rite and attendant mythology, based on Greek cults to Demeter and Persephone.
In the late Republican era, Cicero describes Liber and Libera as Ceres’ children. At around the same time, possibly in the context of popular or religious drama, Hyginus equates her with Greek Ariadne, as bride to Liber’s Greek equivalent, Dionysus: therefore her mythographic associations and identity seem far from straightforward.
The older and newer forms of her cult and rites, and their diverse associations, persisted well into the late Imperial era. St. Augustine (AD 354 – 430) observes that Libera is concerned with female fertility, as Liber is with male fertility.
In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Liber (“the free one”; Latin: Līber), also known as Liber Pater (“the free Father”) was a god of viticulture and wine, fertility and freedom. He was a patron deity of Rome’s plebeians and was part of their Aventine Triad.
His festival of Liberalia (March 17) became associated with free speech and the rights attached to coming of age. His cult and functions were increasingly associated with Romanised forms of the Greek Dionysus/Bacchus whose mythology he came to share.
In ancient Lavinium, he was a phallic deity. Latin liber means “free”, or the “free one”: when coupled with “pater”, it means “The Free Father”, who personifies freedom and champions its attendant rights, as opposed to dependent servitude.
In southern Germany and the Balkans, Dīs Pater had a Celtic goddess, Aericura (also found as Herecura or Eracura), as a consort. Aerecura was a goddess worshipped in ancient times, often thought to be Celtic in origin, mostly represented with the attributes of Proserpina and associated with the Roman underworld god Dis Pater, as on an altar from Sulzbach.
Besides her chthonic symbols, she is often depicted with such attributes of fertility as the cornucopia (from Latin cornu copiae) or horn of plenty, a symbol of abundance and nourishment, commonly a large horn-shaped container overflowing with produce, flowers or nuts, and apple baskets.
She is depicted in a seated posture, wearing a full robe and bearing trays or baskets of fruit, in depictions from Cannstatt and Sulzbach. Miranda Green calls Aericura a “Gaulish Hecuba”, while Noémie Beck characterizes her as a “land-goddess” sharing both underworld and fertility aspects with Dis Pater.
Jona Lendering notes the similarity between her iconography and that of Nehalennia, who was worshipped in Germania Inferior, while Beck sees no significant difference between her attributes and those of the Matres and Matronae.
Geographically, the areas in which Erecura and Dis Pater were worshipped appear to be in complementary distribution with those where the cult of Sucellus and Nantosuelta is attested, and Beck suggests that these cults were functionally similar although iconographically distinct.
Sucellus is usually portrayed as a middle-aged bearded man, with a long-handled hammer, or perhaps a beer barrel suspended from a pole. His companion Nantosuelta is sometimes depicted alongside him. When together, they are accompanied by symbols associated with prosperity and domesticity.
The theonym of Aerecura is of unclear origin. It has been connected with Latin aes, aeris ‘copper, bronze, money, wealth’, era ‘mistress’ and the name of the Greek goddess Hera, the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Hera’s mother is Rhea and her father, Cronus.
Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the polos (a high cylindrical crown worn by several of the Great Goddesses), Hera may bear a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy.
The polos crown (plural poloi) is a high cylindrical crown worn by mythological goddesses of the Ancient Near East and Anatolia and adopted by the ancient Greeks for imaging the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele and Hera. The word also meant an axis or pivot and is cognate with the English, ‘pole’. It was often open at the top with hair cascading down from the sides, or it could be reduced to a ring.
The name of Hera admits a variety of mutually exclusive etymologies; one possibility is to connect it with Greek hōra, season, and to interpret it as ripe for marriage and according to Plato eratē, “beloved” as Zeus is said to have married her for love.
In Greek mythology, Persephone, also called Kore or Cora (“the maiden”), is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter, and is the queen of the underworld. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic princess of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. Persephone was married to Hades, the god-king of the underworld.
The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis and Osiris, and in Minoan Crete.
In the mystical theories of the Orphics and the Platonists, Kore is described as the all-pervading goddess of nature who both produces and destroys everything and she is therefore mentioned along or identified with other mystic divinities such as Isis, Rhea, Ge, Hestia, Pandora, Artemis, and Hecate. The Orphic Persephone is further said to have become by Zeus the mother of Dionysus, Iacchus, Zagreus, and the little-attested Melinoe.
Persephone as a vegetation goddess and her mother Demeter were the central figures of the Eleusinian mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon and promised the initiated a more enjoyable prospect after death. Persephone is further said to have become by Zeus the mother of Dionysus, Iacchus, or Zagreus, usually in orphic tradition. The origins of her cult are uncertain, but it was based on very old agrarian cults of agricultural communities.
Persephone was commonly worshipped along with Demeter and with the same mysteries. To her alone were dedicated the mysteries celebrated at Athens in the month of Anthesterion. In Classical Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed, often carrying a sheaf of grain. She may appear as a mystical divinity with a sceptre and a little box, but she was mostly represented in the process of being carried off by Hades.
The epithets of Persephone reveal her double function as chthonic and vegetation goddess. The surnames given to her by the poets refer to her character as Queen of the lower world and the dead, or her symbolic meaning of the power that shoots forth and withdraws into the earth.
Her common name as a vegetation goddess is Kore and in Arcadia she was worshipped under the title Despoina “the mistress”, a very old chthonic divinity. Plutarch identifies her with spring and Cicero calls her the seed of the fruits of the fields. In the Eleusinian mysteries her return is the symbol of immortality and hence she was frequently represented on sarcophagi.
Korybantes – Galli
According to the Greek mythology, the Korybantes were the armed and crested dancers who worshipped the Phrygian goddess Cybele with drumming and dancing. They are also called the Kurbantes in Phrygia. The conventional English equivalent is “Corybants”. The Korybantes were the offspring of Thalia and Apollo.
A Gallus (pl. Galli) was a eunuch priest of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the state religious practices of ancient Rome.
The term Gallus is also a multiple pun in Latin, meaning a Gaul, or a rooster, as well as a castrated priest. According to the rabbins the emblem of Nergal was a cock and Nergal means a “dunghill cock”, although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion.
While these efforts at “folk” etymologies were widespread in classical times, it has been suggested that gallu comes from the Sumerian Gal meaning “great” and Lu meaning “man”, humans or sexually ambivalent demons that freed Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre, from the underworld.
In Sumerian and Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) mythology, the Gallus (also called gallu demons or gallas[Akkadian: gallû]) were great demons/devils of the underworld.
Gallu demons hauled unfortunate victims off to the underworld. They were one of seven devils (or “the offspring of hell”) of Babylonian theology that could be appeased by the sacrifice of a lamb at their altars.
Inanna (or Ishtar) was freed by gallu demons sent by Enki while she was on a journey to the underworld. An especially fierce gallu demon, the monstrous Asag, was slain by Ninurta using the enchanted mace Sharur. The word gallu may also refer to a human adversary, one that is dangerous and implacable.
The Gala (Akkadian: kalû) were priests of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, significant numbers of the personnel of both temples and palaces, the central institutions of Mesopotamian city states, individuals with neither male nor female gender identities.
These priests played the tympanum and were involved in bull sacrifice. According to an old Babylonian text, Enki created the gala specifically to sing “heart-soothing laments” for the goddess Inanna.
Another category of Mesopotamian priests called assinnu, galatur, and kurgarru had a sacred function. These transgender or eunuch priests participated in liturgical rites, during which they were costumed and masked. They played music, sang, and danced, most often in ceremonies dedicated to the goddess Inanna.
An (Akkadian: Anu, from An “sky, heaven”) is the earliest attested Sky Father deity. In Sumerian religion, he was also “King of the Gods”, “Lord of the Constellations, Spirits and Demons”, and “Supreme Ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven”, where Anu himself wandered the highest Heavenly Regions.
An was believed to have the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and to have created the stars as soldiers to destroy the wicked. His attribute was the Royal Tiara. His attendant and vizier was the god Ilabrat.
Anu existed in Sumerian cosmogony as a dome that covered the flat earth. In Sumerian, the designation “An” was used interchangeably with “the heavens” so that in some cases it is doubtful whether, under the term, the god An or the heavens is being denoted.
The Akkadians inherited An as the god of heavens from the Sumerian as Anu-, and in Akkadian cuneiform, the DINGIR character may refer either to Anum or to the Akkadian word for god, ilu-, and consequently had two phonetic values an and il. Hittite cuneiform as adapted from the Old Assyrian kept the an value but abandoned il.
Outside of the dome that covered the flat earth was the primordial body of water known as Nammu (also Namma, spelled ideographically NAMMA = ENGUR), a primeval goddess, corresponding to Tiamat in Babylonian mythology in later tradition, namely in Enūma eliš. However, there are significant differences in the way the goddesses are portrayed in the literature.
Because this goddess’s name is written with sign for “(cosmic) subterranean waters” (Sumerian: Engur) she has been called the “Cosmic Ocean”. She was the Goddess Sea (Engur) that gave birth to An (Heaven) and Ki (Earth) and the first gods, representing the Apsu, the fresh water ocean that the Sumerians believed lay beneath the earth, the source of life-giving water and fertility in a country with almost no rainfall. She is not well attested in Sumerian mythology.
Nammu, singled out as the “only female prime mover” in the cosmogonic myths of antiquity, is the goddess who “has given birth to the great gods”. No husband or male god is attested in connection with Namma, thus leading to the belief that “the first cosmic production is asexual”.
It is she who has the idea of creating mankind, and she goes to wake up Enki, who is asleep in the Apsu, so that he may set the process going. The Atrahasis-Epos has it that Enlil requested from Nammu the creation of humans. And Nammu told him that with the help of Enki (her son) she can create humans in the image of gods.
She is mainly known for her role in the cosmogony of early Mesopotamia and her importance in magic. Namma bears the title “mother who gave birth to the heavens and the earth.” In the Sumerian poem of Enki and Ninmah Namma is called the “original mother who gave birth to the gods of the universe”, again according her primary status among all the gods and describing her role in Mesopotamian cosmogony.
In Mesopotamian religion, Tiamat was the “shining” personification of salt water who roared and smote in the chaos of original creation. She and Apsu filled the cosmic abyss with the primeval waters. She is “Ummu-Hubur who formed all things”.
She is a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation, depicted as a woman, she represents the beauty of the feminine, depicted as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.
It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.
In the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of deities; her husband, Apsu, correctly assuming they are planning to kill him and usurp his throne, later makes war upon them and is killed.
Enraged, she, too, wars upon her husband’s murderers, taking on the form of a massive sea dragon, she is then slain by Enki’s son, the storm-god Marduk, but not before she had brought forth the monsters of the Mesopotamian pantheon, including the first dragons, whose bodies she filled with “poison instead of blood”. Marduk then forms heavens and the earth from her divided body.
Tiamat was later known as Thalattē (as a variant of thalassa, the Greek word for “sea”) in the Hellenistic Babylonian writer Berossus’ first volume of universal history. Tiamat also has been claimed to be cognate with Northwest Semitic tehom (the deeps, abyss), in the Book of Genesis 1:2.
It is thought that the name of Tiamat was dropped in secondary translations of the original religious texts (written in the East Semitic Akkadian language) because some Akkadian copyists of Enûma Elish substituted the ordinary word for “sea” for Tiamat, since the two names had become essentially the same due to association.
Tablet of Destinies
In Mesopotamian mythology, the Tablet of Destinies (Sumerian: Dup Shimati; not, as frequently misquoted in general works, the Tablets of Destiny) was envisaged as a clay tablet inscribed with cuneiform writing, also impressed with cylinder seals, which, as a permanent legal document, conferred upon the god Enlil his supreme authority as ruler of the universe.
In the Sumerian poem Ninurta and the Turtle it is the god Enki, rather than Enlil, who holds the tablet. Both this poem and the Akkadian Anzû poem share concern of the theft of the tablet by the bird Imdugud (Sumerian) or Anzû (Akkadian). Supposedly, whoever possessed the tablet ruled the universe.
In the Babylonian Enuma Elish, Tiamat possessed the Tablet of Destinies and in the primordial battle she gave them to Kingu, also spelled Qingu, meaning “unskilled laborer,” the deity she had chosen as her lover and to establish him as ruler and leader of of all gods, and who was also one of her children. Modern-day Aries was known as MULLÚ.ḪUN.GÁ, “The Agrarian Worker” or “The Hired Man”.
Tiamat placed Kingu as the general of her army. The deities gathered in terror, but Anu, first extracting a promise that he would be revered as “king of the gods”, overcame her, armed with the arrows of the winds, a net, a club, and an invincible spear.
However, like Tiamat, Kingu was eventually killed by Marduk. Marduk, the chosen champion of the gods, then fights and destroys Tiamat and her army. Marduk reclaims the Tablet of Destinies for himself, thereby strengthening his rule among the gods.
Kingu then went to live in the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, along with the other deities who had sided with Tiamat. Marduk mixed Kingu’s blood with earth and used the clay to mold the first human beings, while Tiamat’s body created the earth and the skies.
Anu was replaced later, first by Enlil and, in the late version that has survived after the First Dynasty of Babylon, by Marduk, the son of Enki. the battle between Marduk and Tiamat has a number of parallels to the battle between Ninurta and Anzu.
Ninurta was a Sumerian and the Akkadian god of hunting and war. In Assyro-Babylonian ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to symbolise Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi probably typify Ninurta.
He was worshipped in Babylonia and Assyria and in Lagash he was identified with the city god Ningirsu. In older transliteration the name is rendered Ninib and Ninip, and in early commentary he was sometimes portrayed as a solar deity.
In Nippur, Ninurta was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil. In variant mythology, his mother is said to be the harvest goddess Ninhursag. The consort of Ninurta was Ugallu in Nippur and Bau when he was called Ningirsu.
Ninurta often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur: Sharur is capable of speech in the Sumerian legend “Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and can take the form of a winged lion and may represent an archetype for the later Shedu.
In the late neo-Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused Ninurta’s character with that of Nergal. The two gods were often invoked together, and spoken of as if they were one divinity.
In the astral-theological system Ninurta was associated with the planet Saturn, or perhaps as offspring or an aspect of Saturn. In his capacity as a farmer-god, there are similarities between Ninurta and the Greek Titan Kronos, whom the Romans in turn identified with their Titan Saturn.
In a legend, Ninurta battles a birdlike monster called Imdugud (Akkadian: Anzû); a Babylonian version relates how the monster Anzû steals the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil. The Tablets of Destiny were believed to contain the details of fate and the future.
Geshtu-(E) (also Geshtu, Gestu) is, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology, a minor god of intelligence. Legend says that he was sacrificed by the great gods and his blood was used in the creation of mankind.
Purusha is a complex concept whose meaning evolved in Vedic and Upanishadic times. Depending on source and historical timeline, it means the cosmic man or Self, Consciousness, and Universal principle.
In early Vedas, Purusa meant a cosmic man whose sacrifice by the gods created all life. This was one of many creation theories discussed in the Vedas. The idea parallels Norse Ymir, with the myth’s origin in Proto-Indo-European religion.
In Norse mythology, Ymir, Aurgelmir, Brimir, or Bláinn is the ancestor of all jötnar. The gods Odin, Vili and Vé fashioned the Earth (elsewhere personified as a goddess; Jörð) from his flesh, from his blood the ocean, from his bones the hills, from his hair the trees, from his brains the clouds, from his skull the heavens, and from his eyebrows the middle realm in which mankind lives, Midgard. In addition, one stanza relates that the dwarfs were given life by the gods from Ymir’s flesh and blood (or the Earth and sea).
Pangu is the first living being and the creator of all in some versions of Chinese mythology. The first writer to record the myth of Pangu was Xu Zheng during the Three Kingdoms period. Recently his name was found in a tomb dated 194 AD.
In the beginning there was nothing in the universe except a formless chaos. This chaos coalesced into a cosmic egg for about 18,000 years. Within it, the perfectly opposed principles of Yin and Yang became balanced, and Pangu emerged (or woke up) from the egg. Pangu is usually depicted as a primitive, hairy giant who has horns on his head and wears furs.
Pangu began creating the world: he separated Yin from Yang with a swing of his giant axe, creating the Earth (murky Yin) and the Sky (clear Yang). To keep them separated, Pangu stood between them and pushed up the Sky. With each day the sky grew ten feet (3 meters) higher, the Earth ten feet thicker, and Pangu ten feet taller. In some versions of the story, Pangu is aided in this task by the four most prominent beasts, namely the Turtle, the Qilin, the Phoenix, and the Dragon.
After the 18,000 years had elapsed, Pangu died. His breath became the wind, mist and clouds; his voice, thunder; his left eye, the sun; his right eye, the moon; his head, the mountains and extremes of the world; his blood, rivers; his muscles, fertile land; his facial hair, the stars and Milky Way; his fur, bushes and forests; his bones, valuable minerals; his bone marrow, sacred diamonds; his sweat, rain; and the fleas on his fur carried by the wind became animals.
Tiamat gave Kingu the 3 Tablets of Destiny, which he wore as a breastplate and which gave him great power. The aegis or aigis, as stated in the Iliad, is carried by Athena and Zeus, but its nature is uncertain. It had been interpreted as an animal skin or a shield, sometimes bearing the head of a Gorgon. According to Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, the Aegis is the breastplate of Zeus, and was “awful to behold”.
Virgil imagines the Cyclopes in Hephaestus’ forge, who “busily burnished the aegis Athena wears in her angry moods—a fearsome thing with a surface of gold like scaly snake-skin, and the linked serpents and the Gorgon herself upon the goddess’s breast—a severed head rolling its eyes”, furnished with golden tassels and bearing the Gorgoneion (Medusa’s head) in the central boss.
Some of the Attic vase-painters retained an archaic tradition that the tassels had originally been serpents in their representations of the aegis. When the Olympian deities overtook the older deities of Greece and she was born of Metis (inside Zeus who had swallowed the goddess) and “re-born” through the head of Zeus fully clothed, Athena already wore her typical garments.
The modern concept of doing something “under someone’s aegis” means doing something under the protection of a powerful, knowledgeable, or benevolent source. The word aegis is identified with protection by a strong force with its roots in Greek mythology and adopted by the Romans; there are parallels in Norse mythology and in Egyptian mythology as well, where the Greek word aegis is applied by extension.
The original meaning may have been the first, and Zeus Aigiokhos = “Zeus who holds the aegis” may have originally meant “Sky/Heaven, who holds the thunderstorm”. The transition to the meaning “shield” or “goatskin” may have come by folk etymology among a people familiar with draping an animal skin over the left arm as a shield.
The aegis also appears in Egyptian mythology. The goddess Bastet sometimes was depicted holding a ceremonial sistrum in one hand and an aegis in the other – the aegis usually resembling a collar or gorget embellished with a lioness head. Plato drew a parallel between Athene and the ancient Libyan and Egyptian goddess Neith, a war deity who also was depicted carrying a shield.
In Norse mythology, the dragon Fafnir (best known in the form of a dragon slain by Sigurðr) bears on his forehead the ægishjálmr “Ægir’s helmet” or “Helm of Terror”. However, some versions would say that Alberich was the one holding a helm called the Tarnkappe that functioned as a cloak of invisibility. It may be an actual helmet or a magical sign with a rather poetic name.
Ægir is an Old Norse word meaning “terror” and the name of a destructive jötunn associated with the sea; ægis is the genitive case of ægir (and has no direct relation to Greek aigis).
One current interpretation is that the Hittite sacral hieratic hunting bag (kursas), a rough and shaggy goatskin that has been firmly established in literary texts and iconography by H.G. Güterbock, was a source of the aegis.
The peoples of ancient Anatolia worshiped, it was said, a kursa, a sacred skin, that was fashioned into a bag and served as as symbol of the deity. This sacred sack could be made of ox, sheep, or goat hide. The kursa was filled with objects signifying abundance, including fertility symbols. Some special kursas were covered with copper or bronze appliques, while others were made of cloth.
Some believe that originally the kursa was itself worshiped as a god, while others maintain that the kursa was the symbol of one or more deities. By the Hittite period, the kursa was seen as the hunting bag of a deity such as the weather god (Tarhun/Teshub) or the war god. (One kursa was hung in the war god’s temple, just as the Fleece sometimes was said to hang in the temple of Ares/Mars.)
It became the centerpiece of the New Year’s festival known as purulli. In this festival, the story of Teshub’s battle with the dragon was recited, and a sacred marriage between stand-ins for Teshub and his wife was performed in the presence of the kursa.
According to the Hittite Etymological Dictionary (1997), the word kursa referred specifically to “skin” as opposed to “fleece” but could be connected to the talismanic power of sheepskin as evidenced by Golden Fleece myths (s.v. kursa).
Kumarbi is the chief god of the Hurrians. He is the son of Anu (the sky), and father of the storm-god Teshub. He was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, and by the Ugaritians with El.
Kumarbi is known from a number of mythological Hittite texts, sometimes summarized under the term “Kumarbi Cycle”. These texts notably include the myth of The Kingship in Heaven (also known as the Song of Kumarbi, or the “Hittite Theogony”, the Song of Ullikummi, the Kingship of the God KAL, the Myth of the dragon Hedammu, the Song of Silver.
The Song of Kumarbi or Kingship in Heaven is the title given to a Hittite version of the Hurrian Kumarbi myth, dating to the 14th or 13th century BC. It is preserved in three tablets, but only a small fraction of the text is legible.
The song relates that Alalu was overthrown by Anu who was in turn overthrown by Kumarbi. When Anu tried to escape, Kumarbi bit off his genitals and spat out three new gods. In the text Anu tells his son that he is now pregnant with the Teshub, Tigris, and Tašmišu.
Upon hearing this Kumarbi spit the semen upon the ground and it became impregnated with two children. Kumarbi is cut open to deliver Tešub. Together, Anu and Teshub depose Kumarbi.
In another version of the Kingship in Heaven, the three gods, Alalu, Anu, and Kumarbi, rule heaven, each serving the one who precedes him in the nine-year reign. It is Kumarbi’s son Tešub, the Weather-God, who begins to conspire to overthrow his father.
From the first publication of the Kingship in Heaven tablets scholars have pointed out the similarities between the Hurrian creation myth and the story from Greek mythology of Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus, in which Cronus displaces Uranus, and Zeus in turn displaces Cronus.
Hursag – Ninlil (Lilith)/Ninhursag
Hursag (HUR.SAG) is a Sumerian term variously translated as meaning “mountain”, “hill”, “foothills” or “piedmont”. Thorkild Jacobsen extrapolated the translation in his later career to mean literally, “head of the valleys”.
Mountains play a certain role in Mesopotamian mythology and Assyro-Babylonian religion, associated with deities such as Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursag. Some scholars also identify hursag with an undefined mountain range or strip of raised land outside the plain of Mesopotamia.
In a myth variously entitled by Samuel Noah Kramer as “The Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and later Ninurta Myth Lugal-e by Thorkild Jacobsen, Hursag is described as a mound of stones constructed by Ninurta after his defeat of a demon called Asag.
Ninurta’s mother Ninlil visits the location after this great victory. In return for her love and loyalty, Ninurta gives Ninlil the hursag as a gift. Her name is consequentially changed from Ninlil to Ninhursag or the “mistress of the Hursag”.
The hursag is described here in a clear cultural myth as a high wall, levee, dam or floodbank, used to restrain the excess mountain waters and floods caused by the melting snow and spring rain. The hursag is constructed with Ninurta’s skills in irrigation engineering and employed to improve the agriculture of the surrounding lands, farms and gardens where the water had previously been wasted.
Sacred prostitution was common in the Ancient Near East as a form of “Sacred Marriage” or hieros gamos between the king of a Sumerian city-state and the High Priestess of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare.
Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers there were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The temple of Eanna, meaning “house of heaven” in Uruk was the greatest of these. The temple housed Nadītu, priestesses of the goddess.
The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Duku ceremony, just before Invisible Moon, with the autumn Equinox (Autumnal Zag-mu Festival).
The motif of Chaoskampf (German for “struggle against chaos”) is ubiquitous in myth and legend, depicting a battle of a culture hero deity with a chaos monster, often in the shape of a serpent or dragon. The same term has also been extended to parallel concepts in the religions of the Ancient Near East, such as the abstract conflict of ideas in the Egyptian duality of Maat and Isfet.
The origins of the Chaoskampf myth most likely lie in the Proto-Indo-European religion whose descendants almost all feature some variation of the story of a storm god fighting a sea serpent representing the clash between the forces of order and chaos.
Early work by German academics such as Gunkel and Bousset in comparative mythology popularized translating the mythological sea serpent as a “dragon.” Indo-European examples of this mythic trope include Thor vs. Jörmungandr (Norse), Tarhunt vs. Illuyanka (Hittite), Indra vs. Vritra (Vedic), Fereydun vs. Aži Dahāka (Avestan), and Zeus vs. Typhon (Greek) among others.
Akitu or Akitum (Sumerian: ezen á.ki.tum, akiti-šekinku, á.ki.ti.še.gur.ku, lit. “the barley-cutting”, akiti-šununum, lit. “barley-sowing”; Akkadian: akituor rêš-šattim, “head of the year”) was a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia. The Babylonian Akitu festival has played a pivotal role in the development of theories of religion, myth and ritual, yet the purpose of the festival remains a point of contention among both historians of religion and Assyriologists.
The name is from the Sumerian for “barley”, originally marking two festivals celebrating the beginning of each of the two half-years of the Sumerian calendar, marking the sowing of barley in autumn and the cutting of barley in spring. In Babylonian religion it came to be dedicated to Marduk’s victory over Tiamat. In the perfected system of astrology, Jupiter was associated with Marduk by the Hammurabi period.
Ma (Mother) / Ama (Freedom)
Ishara (išḫara) is an ancient deity of unknown origin from northern modern Syria. She first appeared in Ebla and was incorporated to the Hurrian pantheon from which she found her way to the Hittite pantheon. Ishara is the Hittite word for “treaty, binding promise”, also personified as a goddess of the oath.
She was associated with the underworld. Her astrological embodiment is the constellation Scorpio and she is called the mother of the Sebitti (the Seven Stars). Ishara was well known in Syria from the third millennium B.C. She became a great goddess of the Hurrian population.
In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. Variants of the name appear as Ašḫara (in a treaty of Naram-Sin of Akkad with Hita of Elam) and Ušḫara (in Ugarite texts). In Ebla, there were various logographic spellings involving the sign AMA “mother”. In Alalah, her name was written with the Akkadogram IŠTAR plus a phonetic complement -ra, as IŠTAR-ra.
Mami is a goddess in the Babylonian epic Atra-Hasis and in other creation legends. She was probably synonymous with Ninhursag. She was involved in the creation of humankind from clay and blood.
As Nintu legends states she pinched off fourteen pieces of primordial clay which she formed into womb deities, seven on the left and seven on the right with a brick between them, who produced the first seven pairs of human embryos.
She may have become Belet Ili (“Mistress of the Gods”) when, at Enki’s suggestion, the gods slew one among themselves and used that god’s blood and flesh, mixed with clay, to create humankind. Also known as Belet-ili, or Nintu. Alternative forms of her name include Mama and Mammitum.
Ma is a Sumerian word meaning “land” that in Sumerian mythology was also used to regard Primordial Land. There seems to be some loss in records as to the transition, but the same name Ma appears again later, also tied to the Earth, in Ma being referred to as “Mother of the mountain” – in this case, Kur (Mountain) the first dragon god.
In Sumerian mythology, Kur is considered the first dragon, and usually referred to the Zagros mountains to the east of Sumer. The cuneiform for “kur” was written ideographically with the pictograph of a mountain. It can also mean “foreign land”. Kur is almost identical with “Ki-gal”, “Great Land” which is the Underworld (thus the ruler of the Underworld is Ereshkigal “Goddess of The Great Land”.
Although the word for earth was Ki, Kur came to also mean land, and Sumer itself, was called “Kur-gal” or “Great Land”. “Kur-gal” also means “Great Mountain” and is a metonym for both Nippur and Enlil who rules from that city. Ekur, “mountain house” was the temple of Enlil at Nippur. A second, popular meaning of Kur was “underworld”, or the world under the earth.
Kur was sometimes the home of the dead, it is possible that the flames on escaping gas plumes in parts of the Zagros mountains would have given those mountains a meaning not entirely consistent with the primary meaning of mountains and an abode of a god. The eastern mountains as an abode of the god with the farther East as the origin of all gods was popular in Ancient Near Eastern mythology.
The underworld Kur is the void space between the primeval sea (Abzu) and the earth (Ma). Which seem a likely pairing for parentage, in a fuzzy set of records. Ma was a local goddess at Ma and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele.
Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubeleyan Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”) is an Anatolian mother goddess; she has a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük, where the statue of a pregnant, seated goddess was found in a granary.
She is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its state deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies around the 6th century BCE.
In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Harvest-Mother goddess Demeter. Some city-states, notably Athens, evoked her as a protector, but her most celebrated Greek rites and processions show her as an essentially foreign, exotic mystery-goddess who arrives in a lion-drawn chariot to the accompaniment of wild music, wine, and a disorderly, ecstatic following.
Uniquely in Greek religion, she had a eunuch mendicant priesthood. Many of her Greek cults included rites to a divine Phrygian castrate shepherd-consort Attis, who was probably a Greek invention. In Greece, Cybele is associated with mountains, town and city walls, fertile nature, and wild animals, especially lions.
Comana was a city of Cappadocia and later Cataonia (Latin: Comana Cataoniae; frequently called Comana Chryse or Aurea, i.e. “the golden”, to distinguish it from Comana in Pontus). The Hittite toponym Kummanni, the name of the main center the Anatolian kingdom of Kizzuwatna.
It is considered likely to refer to Comana, but the identification is not considered proven. Its ruins are at the modern Turkish village of Şar (tr), Tufanbeyli district, Adana Province. Kummanni was the major cult center of the Hurrian chief deity, Tešup. Its Hurrian name Kummeni simply translates as “The Shrine.”
The city persisted into the Early Iron Age, and appears as Kumme in Assyrian records. It was located on the edge of Assyrian influence in the far northeastern corner of Mesopotamia, separating Assyria from Urartu and the highlands of southeastern Anatolia. Kumme was still considered a holy city in Assyrian times, both in Assyria and in Urartu.
Adad-nirari II, after re-conquering the city, made sacrifices to “Adad of Kumme.” The three chief deities in the Urartian pantheon were “the god of Ardini, the god of Kumenu, and the god of Tushpa.” Kumarbi is the chief god of the Hurrians. He is the son of Anu (the sky), and father of the storm-god Teshub. He was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, and by the Ugaritians with El.
Hadad, Adad, Haddad (Akkadian) or Iškur (Sumerian) was the storm and rain god in the Northwest Semitic and ancient Mesopotamian religions. It was attested in Ebla as “Hadda” in c. 2500 BC.
From the Levant, Hadad was introduced to Mesopotamia by the Amorites, where it became known as the Akkadian (Assyrian-Babylonian) god Adad. Adad and Iškur are usually written with the logogram dIM. Hadad was also called “Pidar”, “Rapiu”, “Baal-Zephon”, or often simply Baʿal (Lord), but this title was also used for other gods.
The bull was the symbolic animal of Hadad. He appeared bearded, often holding a club and thunderbolt while wearing a bull-horned headdress. Hadad was equated with the Indo-European Nasite Hittite storm-god Teshub; the Egyptian god Set; the Rigvedic god Indra; the Greek god Zeus; the Roman god Jupiter, as Jupiter Dolichenus.
In religious texts, Ba‘al/Hadad is the lord of the sky who governs the rain and thus the germination of plants with the power of his desire that they be fertile. He is the protector of life and growth to the agricultural people of the region. The absence of Ba‘al causes dry spells, starvation, death, and chaos.
According to ancient geographers, Comana was situated in Cappadocia (and later Cataonia). Another epithet for the city, found in inscriptions, is Hieropolis ‘sacred city’, owing to a famous temple of the Syrian Moon goddess Enyo or, in the local language: Ma (cf. Men, the moon goddess of Caria).
Strabo and Julius Caesar visited it; the former enters into long details about its position in a deep valley on the Sarus (Seihoun) river. The temple and its fame in ancient times as the place where the rites of Ma-Enyo, a variety of the great west Asian nature-goddess, were celebrated with much solemnity.
Maat or Ma’at (meaning “(world-) order” or “harmony”) was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. Pharaohs are often depicted with the emblems of Maat to emphasise their role in upholding the laws of the Creator.
Her ideological counterpart was Isfet or Asfet, meaning “injustice”, “chaos”, or “violence”; as a verb, “to do evil”, an ancient Egyptian term from Egyptian mythology used in philosophy, which was built on a religious, social and political affected dualism.
The earliest surviving records indicating that Maat is the norm for nature and society, in this world and the next, were recorded during the Old Kingdom, the earliest substantial surviving examples being found in the Pyramid Texts of Unas (ca. 2375 BCE and 2345 BCE).
Later, as a goddess in other traditions of the Egyptian pantheon, where most goddesses were paired with a male aspect, her masculine counterpart was Thoth, as their attributes are similar. In other accounts, Thoth was paired off with Seshat, goddess of writing and measure, who is a lesser known deity.
After her role in creation and continuously preventing the universe from returning to chaos, her primary role in Egyptian mythology dealt with the weighing of souls (also called the weighing of the heart) that took place in the underworld, Duat. Her feather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of the departed would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully.
In ancient Greek religion and Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest and agriculture, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth. Her cult titles include Sito, “she of the Grain”, as the giver of food or grain, and Thesmophoros (thesmos: divine order, unwritten law; phoros: bringer, bearer), “Law-Bringer,” as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society.
Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon. In the Linear B Mycenean Greek tablets of circa 1400–1200 BC found at Pylos, the “two mistresses and the king” may be related with Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon. Her Roman equivalent is Ceres.
Ama-gi or ama-ar-gi is a Sumerian word translated as “freedom”, as well as “manumission”, “exemption from debts or obligations”, and “the restoration of persons and property to their original status” including the remission of debts. Other interpretations include a “reversion to a previous state” and release from debt, slavery, taxation or punishment.
The word originates from the noun ama “mother” (sometimes with the enclitic dative case marker ar), and the present participle gi4 “return, restore, put back”, thus literally meaning “returning to mother”. Assyriologist Samuel Noah Kramer has identified it as the first known written reference to the concept of freedom. Referring to its literal meaning “return to the mother”, he wrote in 1963 that “we still do not know why this figure of speech came to be used for “freedom.””
The earliest known usage of the word was in the reforms of Urukagina. By the Third Dynasty of Ur, it was used as a legal term for the manumission of individuals. It is related to the Akkadian word anduraāru(m), meaning “freedom”, “exemption” and “release from (debt) slavery”.
Thoth played many vital and prominent roles in Egyptian mythology, such as maintaining the universe, and being one of the two deities (the other being Ma’at) who stood on either side of Ra’s boat. In the later history of ancient Egypt, Thoth became heavily associated with the arbitration of godly disputes, the arts of magic, the system of writing, the development of science, and the judgment of the dead.
Thoth’s chief temple was located in the city of Khmun (Ḫmnw), the Ancient Egyptian name of the city, which means “eight-town”, after the Ogdoad, a group of eight deities who represented the world before creation. The name survived into Coptic as Shmounein, from which the modern name, El Ashmunein, is derived.
In Greek, the city was called Hermopolis, after Hermes, whom the Greeks identified with Thoth, because the city was the main cult centre of Thoth, the god of magic, healing and wisdom, and the patron of scribes. Thoth was associated in the same way with the Semitic Eshmun (or Eshmoun, less accurately Esmun or Esmoun; Phoenician: lʾšmn). Inscriptions at the temple call the god “The Lord of Eshmun”.
Eshmun was a Phoenician god of healing and the tutelary god of Sidon. This god was known at least from the Iron Age period at Sidon and was worshipped also in Tyre, Beirut, Cyprus, Sardinia, and in Carthage where the site of Eshmun’s temple is now occupied by the acropolium of Carthage.
According to Eusebius of Caesarea, Phoenician author Sanchuniathon wrote that Sydyk, ‘The Righteous’, first fathered seven sons equated with the Greek Cabeiri or Dioscuri, no mother named, and then afterwards fathered an eighth son by one of the seven Titanides or Artemides.
Sydyk is described as the father of the “Dioskouroi or Kabeiroi or Korybants or Samothracians”, who are credited with the invention of the ship. The Phoenician Sydyk was equated with Roman Jupiter, and hence it has been suggested that Sydyk was connected to the worship of the planet Jupiter as the manifestation of justice or righteousness.
Sanchuniathon refers to a group of seven daughters of El by ‘Ashtart whose Phoenician name is not given but who are called the Titanides or Artemides in Greek. That the Greek goddess Artemis was often worshipped as a birth goddess suggests these seven Artemides are so called because they were also birth goddesses. If so, they are probably identical to the Ugaritic Kotharat.
A trilingual inscription of the 2nd century BC from Sardinia also identifies Eshmun with the Greek Asclepius and the Latin Aesculapius, a hero and god of medicine in ancient Greek religion and mythology. He was associated with the Roman/Etruscan god Vediovis and the Egyptian Imhotep. He was one of Apollo’s sons, sharing with Apollo the epithet Paean (“the Healer”). The rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a symbol of medicine today. Those physicians and attendants who served this god were known as the Therapeutae of Asclepius.
He was the son of Apollo and, according to the earliest accounts, a mortal woman named Coronis. His mother was killed for being unfaithful to Apollo and was laid out on a funeral pyre to be consumed, but the unborn child was rescued from her womb. Or, alternatively, his mother died in labor and was laid out on the pyre to be consumed, but Apollo rescued the child, cutting him from Coronis’ womb.
Apollo carried the baby to the centaur Chiron who raised Asclepius and instructed him in the art of medicine. It is said that in return for some kindness rendered by Asclepius, a snake licked Asclepius’ ears clean and taught him secret knowledge (to the Greeks snakes were sacred beings of wisdom, healing, and resurrection). Asclepius bore a rod wreathed with a snake, which became associated with healing. A species of non-venomous pan-Mediterranean serpent, the Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) is named for the god.
Asclepius became so proficient as a healer that he surpassed both Chiron and his father, Apollo. Asclepius was therefore able to evade death and to bring others back to life from the brink of death and beyond.
The city was later called Hermopolis Magna during the Greco-Roman era (in reference to him through the Greeks’ interpretation that he was the same as their god Hermes) and Shmounein in the Coptic rendering, and was partially destroyed in 1826.
A mother goddess is a goddess who represents, or is a personification of nature, motherhood, fertility, creation, destruction or who embodies the bounty of the Earth. When equated with the Earth or the natural world, such goddesses are sometimes referred to as Mother Earth or as the Earth Mother.
Many different goddesses have represented motherhood in one way or another, and some have been associated with the birth of humanity as a whole, along with the universe and everything in it. Others have represented the fertility of the earth.
Numerous female figurines from Neolithic Çatalhöyük in Anatolia have been interpreted as evidence of a mother-goddess cult, c.7500 BCE. James Mellaart, who led excavation at the site in the 1960s, suggests that the figures represent a Great goddess, who headed the pantheon of an essentially matriarchal culture. A seated female figure, flanked by what Mellaart describes as lionesses, was found in a grain-bin; she may have intended to protect the harvest and grain.
Reports of more recent excavations at Çatalhöyük conclude that overall, the site offers no unequivocal evidence of matriarchal culture or a dominant Great Goddess; the balance of male and female power appears to have been equal. The seated or enthroned goddess-like figure flanked by lionesses, has been suggested as a prototype Cybele, a leading deity and Mother Goddess of later Anatolian states.
Figurines of fertility goddesses, both individually sculpted and mass-produced, have been found at nearly all Near Eastern sites. The earliest such figurines date back to the Neolithic era (7th and 6th millennia BCE) and they continue to be made throughout Near Eastern history. Very little is known about the goddess or her cult as so little concerning them was written down in ancient times.
Many modern scholars believe that many of the Sumerian goddesses known from later myths and hymns were originally local aspects of the indigenous mother goddess. Prominent among such goddesses were Ninhursaga, Ninmah, Damgalnunna, Ninmah, Nintu and Nammu. Many of these goddesses were married off to the gods in the Old Babylonian period, after which they became increasingly regarded as taking a mediating and intercessionary role.
Due to being mother of Gilgamesh, Ninsun is also regarded as a mother goddess in general Mesopotamian mythology. She is Asherah in Canaan and `Ashtart in Syria. The Sumerians wrote erotic poetry about their mother goddess Ninhursag.
In the Aegean, Anatolian, and ancient Near Eastern culture zones, Cybele, the primordial deity Gaia, and Rhea were worshiped as Mother goddesses. In Mycenae the great goddess often was represented by a column.
Olympian goddesses of classical Greece with mother goddess attributes include Hera and Demeter. “The goddesses of Greek polytheism, so different and complementary, are nonetheless, consistently similar at an earlier stage, with one or the other simply becoming dominant in a sanctuary or city. Each is the Great Goddess presiding over a male society; each is depicted in her attire as Mistress of the Beasts, and Mistress of the Sacrifice, even Hera and Demeter”
The Minoan goddess represented in seals and other remains many of whose attributes were absorbed into Artemis, seems to have been a mother goddess type, for in some representations she suckles the animals that she holds. The archaic local goddess worshiped at Ephesus, whose cult statue was adorned with necklaces and stomachers hung with rounded protuberances who was later also identified by Hellenes with Artemis, was probably also a mother goddess.
In ancient Roman religion, Tellus or Terra Mater (“Mother Earth”) was a goddess of the earth and agriculture. Her festivals and rituals often connected her to Ceres, goddess of grain, agriculture, fertility, and mothering.
Venus was regarded as a mother of the Roman people through her half-mortal son Aeneas, who led refugees from the Trojan War to settle in Italy. The family of Julius Caesar claimed to have descended from Venus. In this capacity she was given cult as Venus Genetrix (Venus the Begetter). In the later Imperial era, she was included among the many manifestations of a syncretised Magna Dea (Great Goddess), who could be manifested as any goddess at the head of a pantheon, such as Juno or Minerva.
The Irish goddess Anu, sometimes known as Danu, has an aspect as a mother goddess, judging from the Dá Chích Anann near Killarney, County Kerry. Irish literature names the last and most favored generation of deities as “the people of Danu” (Tuatha De Danann).
The Welsh have a similar figure called Dôn who is often equated with Danu and identified as a mother goddess. Sources for this character date from the Christian period, however, so she is referred to simply as a “mother of heroes” in the Mabinogion. The character’s (assumed) origins as a goddess are obscured.
The Celts of Gaul worshipped a goddess known as Dea Matrona (“divine mother goddess”) who was associated with the Marne River. Similar figures known as the Matres (Latin for “mothers”) are found on altars in Celtic as well as Germanic areas of Europe.
In the first century BCE, Tacitus in his book Germania, recorded rites amongst the Germanic tribes focused on the goddess Nerthus, whom he calls Terra Mater, ‘Mother Earth’. Prominent in these rites was the procession of the goddess in a wheeled vehicle through the countryside. Among the seven or eight tribes said to worship her, Tacitus lists the Anglii, Suebi and the Longobardi.
Among the later Anglo-Saxons, a Christianized charm known as Æcerbot survives from records from the tenth century. The charm involves a procession through the fields while calling upon the Christian God for a good harvest, that invokes ‘eorþan modor’ (Earth Mother) and ‘folde, fira modor,’ (Earth, mother of men).
In skaldic poetry, the kenning, “Odin’s wife”, is a common designation for the Earth. Bynames of the Earth in Icelandic poetry include Jörð, Fjörgyn, Hlóðyn, and Hlín. Hlín is used as a byname of both Jörð and Frigg. Fjörgynn (a masculine form of Fjörgyn) is said to be Frigg’s father, while the name Hlóðyn is most commonly linked to Frau Holle, as well as to a goddess, Hludana, whose name is found etched in several votive inscriptions from the Roman era.
Connections have been proposed between the figure of Nerthus and various figures (particularly figures counted amongst the Vanir) recorded in thirteenth century Icelandic records of Norse mythology, including Frigg. Due to potential etymological connections, the Norse god Njörðr has been proposed as the consort of Nerthus. In the Poetic Edda poem, Lokasenna, Njörðr is said to have fathered his famous children by his own sister. This sister remains unnamed in surviving records.
Due to specific terms used to describe the figure of Grendel’s mother from the poem Beowulf, some scholars have proposed that the figure of Grendel’s mother, like the poem itself, may have derived from earlier traditions originating from Germanic paganism.
Mat Zemlya and her handmaiden Mokosh are two major deities in Slavic mythology. They date back to the Primary Chronicle and working together, they can give life and take it away. Mat Zemlya is Mother Earth, and Mokosh is the moisture that makes it fertile.
In Hinduism, Durga represents the empowering and protective nature of motherhood. From her forehead sprang Kali, who defeated Durga’s enemy, Mahishasura. Kali (the feminine form of Kaala” i.e. “time”) is the primordial energy as power of Time, literally, the “creator or doer of time”—her first manifestation. After time, she manifests as “space”, as Tara, from which point further creation of the material universe progresses.
The divine Mother, Devi Adi parashakti, manifests herself in various forms, representing the universal creative force. She becomes Mother Nature (Mula Prakriti), who gives birth to all life forms as plants, animals, and such from Herself, and she sustains and nourishes them through her body, that is the earth with its animal life, vegetation, and minerals.
Ultimately she re-absorbs all life forms back into herself, or “devours” them to sustain herself as the power of death feeding on life to produce new life. She also gives rise to Maya (the illusory world) and to prakriti, the force that galvanizes the divine ground of existence into self-projection as the cosmos. The Earth itself is manifested by Adi parashakti. Hindu worship of the divine Mother can be traced back to pre-vedic, prehistoric India.
The form of Hinduism known as Shaktism is strongly associated with Samkhya, and Tantra Hindu philosophies and ultimately, is monist. The primordial feminine creative-preservative-destructive energy, Shakti, is considered to be the motive force behind all action and existence in the phenomenal cosmos. The cosmos itself is purusha, the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality that is the Divine Ground of all being, the “world soul”.
This masculine potential is actualized by feminine dynamism, embodied in multitudinous goddesses who are ultimately all manifestations of the One Great Mother. Mother Maya or Shakti, herself, can free the individual from demons of ego, ignorance, and desire that bind the soul in maya (illusion). Practitioners of the Tantric tradition focus on Shakti to free themselves from the cycle of karma.
The Normans had a major influence on English Romanesque architecture when they built a large numbers of Christian monasteries, abbeys, churches, and cathedrals. These Romanesque styles originated in Normandy and became widespread in north western Europe, particularly in England, which has the largest number of surviving examples.
Sheela na Gig is a common stone carving found in Romanesque Christian churches scattered throughout Europe. These female figures are found in Ireland, Great Britain, France, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, and in the Czech Republic. Some of the figures seem to be elements of earlier structures, perhaps devoted to goddess worship.
Other common motifs on Christian churches of the same time period are spirals and ouroboros or dragons swallowing their tails, which is a reference to rebirth and regeneration, a concept well known in pantheism. Other creatures including the succubus make an appearance in the sculptural reliefs of the church that have a long history in the oral tradition of previous civilizations that preceded Christianity that may relate to earlier goddess worship.
Catholics and most Orthodox and Anglican Christians regard Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the Theotokos or “Mother of God”. For many believers she not only fulfills a maternal role, but is often viewed as a protective and intercessory force, a divinely established Mediatrix for humanity, but stress that she is not worshipped as a divine mother goddess.
The Roman Catholic, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox churches identify “the woman clothed in sun” of Revelation 12 as Mary because in verse 5, this woman is said to have given “birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod”, whom they identify as Jesus.
In Revelation 17:12 “the rest of her offspring” are described as “those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.” These Christians believe themselves to be the other “offspring” because they try to “keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus,” and thus, they embrace Mary as their “mother”. They also cite John 19:26–27 where Jesus entrusts his mother to the Beloved Disciple as evidence that Mary is the mother of all Christians, taking the command “behold thy mother” to apply generally.
In 300 CE, the Mary was worshipped as a mother goddess in the Christian sect Collyridianism, which was found throughout Saudi Arabia. Followers of Collyridianism were known to make bread and wheat offerings to the Virgin Mary, along with other sacrificial practices. The cult was heavily condemned as heretical and schismatic by the Roman Catholic Church and was preached against by Epiphanius of Salamis, who discussed the group in his Panarion.
Mary received many titles in the Roman Catholic Church, such as Queen of Heaven and Our Lady, Star of the Sea, that are familiar from earlier Near Eastern traditions. Due to this correlation, some Protestants often accuse Catholics of viewing Mary as a goddess, but the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox churches always have condemned “worship as adoration” of Mary.
Part of this accusation is due to the Catholic practice of prayer as a means of communication rather than as a means of worship. Catholics believe that the faithful dead have achieved eternal life and can intercede for people here on earth. Concepts of mother goddess worship is heavily condemned by the Holy See as it had been suppressed and condemned among the Collyridianist sect in 300 CE.
Dawn goddess – Hausha
One of the most important goddesses of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion is the personification of dawn as a beautiful young woman. Her name is reconstructed as Hausōs (PIE *hewsṓs- or *hausōs-, an s-stem), besides numerous epithets.
Derivatives of *hewsṓs in the historical mythologies of Indo-European peoples include Indian Uṣas, Greek Ēōs, Latin Aurōra, and Baltic Aušra (“dawn”, c.f. Lithuanian Aušrinė). Germanic *Austrōn- is from an extended stem *hews-tro-.
The name *hewsṓs is derived from a root *hwes / *au̯es “to shine”, thus translating to “the shining one”. Both the English word east and the Latin auster “south” are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. Also cognate is aurum “gold”, from *awso-.
Besides the name most amenable to reconstruction, *hewsṓs, a number of epithets of the dawn goddess may be reconstructed with some certainty. Among these is *wenos- (also an s-stem), whence Sanskrit vanas “loveliness; desire”, used of Uṣas in the Rigveda, and the Latin name Venus and the Norse Vanir. The name indicates that the goddess was imagined as a beautiful nubile woman, who also had aspects of a love goddess.
The love goddess aspect was separated from the personification of dawn in a number of traditions, including Roman Venus vs. Aurora, and Greek Aphrodite vs. Eos. The name of Aphrodite may still preserve her role as a dawn goddess, etymologized as “she who shines from the foam [ocean]” (from aphros “foam” and deato “to shine”).
J.P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams (1997) have also proposed an etymology based on the connection with the Indo-European dawn goddess, from *abhor- “very” and *dhei “to shine”. Other epithets include Erigone “early-born” in Greek.
The Italic goddess Mater Matuta “Mother Morning” has been connected to Aurora by Roman authors (Lucretius, Priscianus). Her festival, the Matralia, fell on 11 June, beginning at dawn.
The name for “spring season”, *wes-r- is also from the same root. The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European new year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus). The Puranic Shiva is a continuation of the Vedic Indra. In the Rig Veda the term śiva is used to refer to Indra.
The abduction and imprisonment of the dawn goddess, and her liberation by a heroic god slaying the dragon who imprisons her, is a central myth of Indo-European religion, reflected in numerous traditions. Most notably, it is the central myth of the Rigveda, a collection of hymns surrounding the Soma rituals dedicated to Indra in the new year celebrations of the early Indo-Aryans.
Ushas, Sanskrit for “dawn”, is a Vedic deity, and consequently a Hindu deity as well. She is an exalted goddess in the Rig Veda but less prominent in post-Rigvedic texts. Sanskrit uṣas is an s-stem, i.e. the genitive case is uṣásas. It is from PIE *hausos-, cognate to Greek Eos and Latin Aurora.
She is often spoken of in the plural, “the Dawns.” She is portrayed as warding off evil spirits of the night, and as a beautifully adorned young woman riding in a golden chariot on her path across the sky. Due to her color she is often identified with the reddish cows, and both are released by Indra from the Vala cave at the beginning of time.
Vala (valá-), meaning “enclosure” in Vedic Sanskrit, is a demon of the Rigveda and the Atharvaveda, the brother of Vrtra (lit. ‘enveloper’), a serpent or dragon, the personification of drought and adversary of Indra.
In Hinduism, Vritra is identified as an Asura. Vritra was also known in the Vedas as Ahi (Sanskrit: ahi, lit. ‘snake’). He appears as a dragon blocking the course of the rivers and is heroically slain by Indra.
Historically, it has the same origin as the Vrtra story, being derived from the same root, and from the same root also as Varuna, *val-/var- (PIE *wel-) “to cover, to enclose” (perhaps cognate to veil).
Parallel to Vrtra “the blocker”, a stone serpent slain by Indra to liberate the rivers, Vala is a stone cave, split by Indra (intoxicated and strengthened by Soma, identified with Brhaspati in 4.50 and 10.68 or Trita in 1.52, aided by the Angirasas in 2.11), to liberate the cows and Ushas, hidden there by the Panis.
Already in 2.24, the story is given a mystical interpretation, with warlike Indra replaced by Brahmanaspati, the lord of prayer, who split Vala with prayer (brahman) rather than with the thunderbolt.
In one recent Hindu interpretation, Sri Aurobindo in his Secret of the Veda, described Ushas as “the medium of the awakening, the activity and the growth of the other gods; she is the first condition of the Vedic realisation. By her increasing illumination the whole nature of man is clarified; through her [mankind] arrives at the Truth, through her he enjoys [Truth’s] beatitude.”
Sherida/Aya and Ud/Shamash
Aya (or Aja) in Akkadian mythology was a mother goddess, consort of the sun god Shamash. She developed from the Sumerian goddess Šherida, consort of Utu. Šherida is one of the oldest Mesopotamian gods, attested in inscriptions from pre-Sargonic times, her name (as “Aya”) was a popular personal name during the Ur III period (21st-20th century BCE), making her among the oldest Semitic deities known in the region.
As the Sumerian pantheon formalized, Utu became the primary sun god, and Šherida was syncretized into a subordinate role as an aspect of the sun alongside other less powerful solar deities (c.f. Ninurta) and took on the role of Utu’s consort.
When the Semitic Akkadians moved into Mesopotamia, their pantheon became syncretized to the Sumerian. Inanna to Ishtar, Nanna to Sin, Utu to Shamash, etc. The minor Mesopotamian sun goddess Aya became syncretized into Šherida during this process.
The goddess Aya in this aspect appears to have had wide currency among Semitic peoples, as she is mentioned in god-lists in Ugarit and shows up in personal names in the Bible (Gen 36:24, 2 Sam 3:7, 1 Chr 7:28).
Aya is Akkadian for “dawn”, and by the Akkadian period she was firmly associated with the rising sun and with sexual love and youth. The Babylonians sometimes referred to her as kallatu (the bride), and as such she was known as the wife of Shamash. In fact, she was worshiped as part of a separate-but-attached cult in Shamash’s e-babbar temples in Larsa and Sippar.
By the Neo-Babylonian period at the latest (and possibly much earlier), Shamash and Aya were associated with a practice known as Hasadu, which is loosely translated as a “sacred marriage.”
A room would be set aside with a bed, and on certain occasions the temple statues of Shamash and Aya would be brought together and laid on the bed to ceremonially renew their vows. This ceremony was also practiced by the cults of Marduk with Sarpanitum, Nabu with Tashmetum, and Anu with Antu.
Enmešara (Nergal) and Dumuzi
When Enlil rose to equal or surpass An in authority, the functions of the two deities came to some extent to overlap. An was also sometimes equated with Amurru, and, in Seleucid Uruk, with Enmešara and Dumuzi.
Enmesarra, or Enmešarra, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology is an underworld god of the law. Described as a Sun god, protector of flocks and vegetation, and therefore he has been equated with Nergal. On the other hand, he has been described as an ancestor of Enlil, and it has been claimed that Enlil slew him.
Nergal was a deity worshipped throughout Mesopotamia (Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia) with the main seat of his worship at Cuthah represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim.
The standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion. He is a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna and Ninurta. He seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only representative of a certain phase of the sun.
Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle.
He has also been called “the king of sunset”. Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. He was the deity who presided over the netherworld, and who stands at the head of the special pantheon assigned to the government of the dead (supposed to be gathered in a large subterranean cave known as Aralu or Irkalla).
In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal (EREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”), though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person. In some texts the god Ninazu is the son of Nergal and Allatu/Ereshkigal.
In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal was the goddess of Irkalla, the land of the dead or underworld. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler, and sometimes it is given as Ninkigal, lit. “Great Lady of the Earth” or “Lady of the Great Earth”. Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom. The main temple dedicated to her was located in Kutha.
The goddess Ishtar, the symbol of nature during the non-productive season of the year, refers to Ereshkigal as her older sister in the Sumerian hymn “The Descent of Inanna” (which was also in later Babylonian myth, also called “The Descent of Ishtar”). Inanna/Ishtar’s trip and return to the underworld is the most familiar of the myths concerning Ereshkigal.
Ereshkigal is known chiefly through two myths, believed to symbolize the changing of the seasons, but perhaps also intended to illustrate certain doctrines which date back to the Mesopotamia period. According to the doctrine of two kingdoms, the dominions of the two sisters are sharply differentiated, as one is of this world and one of the world of the dead.
Nergal’s fiery aspect appears in names or epithets such as Lugalgira, Lugal-banda (Nergal as the fighting-cock), Sharrapu (“the burner,” a reference to his manner of dealing with outdated teachings), Erra, Gibil (though this name more properly belongs to Nusku), and Sibitti or Seven.
In the late Babylonian astral-theological system Nergal is related to the planet Mars. As a fiery god of destruction and war, Nergal doubtless seemed an appropriate choice for the red planet, and he was equated by the Greeks to the war-god Ares (Latin Mars)—hence the current name of the planet.
Being a deity of the desert, god of fire, which is one of negative aspects of the sun, god of the underworld, and also being a god of one of the religions which rivaled Christianity and Judaism, Nergal was sometimes called a demon and even identified with Satan. According to Collin de Plancy and Johann Weyer, Nergal was depicted as the chief of Hell’s “secret police”, and worked as “an honorary spy in the service of Beelzebub”.
Baal, properly Baʿal, was a title and honorific meaning “lord” in the Northwest Semitic languages spoken in the Levant during antiquity. From its use among people, it came to be applied to gods. Scholars previously associated the theonym with solar cults and with a variety of unrelated patron deities, but inscriptions have shown that the name Baʿal was particularly associated with the storm and fertility god Hadad and his local manifestations.
The Hebrew Bible, compiled and curated over a span of centuries, includes early use of the term in reference to their God Yahweh, generic use in reference to various Levantine deities, and finally pointed application towards Hadad, who was decried as a false god. This use was taken over into Christianity and Islam, sometimes under the opprobrious form Beelzebub.
In some places, especially in Psalm 29, Yahweh is clearly envisioned as a storm god, something not true of Ēl so far as we know (although true of his son, Ba’al Hadad). It is Yahweh who is prophesied to one day battle Leviathan the serpent, and slay the dragon in the sea in Isaiah 27:1. The slaying of the serpent in myth is a deed attributed to both Ba’al Hadad and ‘Anat in the Ugaritic texts, but not to Ēl.
The Phoenician Baʿal is generally identified with either El or Dagan. ʾĒl (or ‘Il, written aleph-lamed, cognate to Akkadian: ilu) is a Northwest Semitic word meaning “god” or “deity”, or referring (as a proper name) to any one of multiple major Ancient Near East deities. A rarer spelling, “‘ila”, represents the predicate form in Old Akkadian and in Amorite. The word is derived from the Proto-Semitic archaic biliteral ʔ‑L, meaning “god”.
Specific deities known as El or Il include the supreme god of the Canaanite religion, the supreme god of the Mesopotamian Semites in the pre-Sargonic period, and the god of the Hebrew Bible.
In northwest Semitic use, El was both a generic word for any god and the special name or title of a particular god who was distinguished from other gods as being “the god”. El is listed at the head of many pantheons. El is the Father God among the Canaanites.
However, because the word sometimes refers to a god other than the great god Ēl, it is frequently ambiguous as to whether Ēl followed by another name means the great god Ēl with a particular epithet applied or refers to another god entirely. For example, in the Ugaritic texts, ʾil mlk is understood to mean “Ēl the King” but ʾil hd as “the god Hadad”.
The Semitic root ʾlh (Arabic ʾilāh, Aramaic ʾAlāh, ʾElāh, Hebrew ʾelōah) may be ʾl with a parasitic h, and ʾl may be an abbreviated form of ʾlh. In Ugaritic the plural form meaning “gods” is ʾilhm, equivalent to Hebrew ʾelōhîm “powers”. But in Hebrew this word also occurs for semantically singular “god”.
The stem ʾl is found prominently in the earliest strata of east Semitic, northwest Semitic, and south Semitic groups. Personal names including the stem ʾl are found with similar patterns in both Amorite and South Arabic—which indicates that probably already in Proto-Semitic ʾl was both a generic term for “god” and the common name or title of a single particular god.
The Northwest Semitic languages—Ugaritic, Phoenician, Hebrew, Amorite, and Aramaic—were all abjads, typically written without vowels. As such, the word baʿal was usually written as BʿL (bet-ayin-lamedh); its vowels have been reconstructed. In these languages, baʿal signified “owner” and, by extension, “lord”, a “master”, or “husband”. It also appears as Baʿali or Baʿaly, “my Lord”.
Cognates include the Akkadian Bēlu, Amharic bal, and Arabic baʿl. Báʿl aַַּnd baʿl still serve as the words for “husband” in modern Hebrew and Arabic respectively. They also appear in some contexts concerning the ownership of things or possession of traits. In Levantine Arabic, baʿl also serves as an adjective describing farming that relies on rainwater alone.
The feminine form is baʿalah, meaning “mistress” in the sense of a female owner or lady of the house and still serving as a rare word for “wife”. The plural form is baʿalim.
Most modern scholarship asserts that this Baʿal—usually distinguished as “The Lord” (Ha Baʿal)—was identical with the storm and fertility god Hadad; it also appears in the form Baʿal Haddu.
Scholars propose that, as the cult of Hadad increased in importance, his true name came to be seen as too holy for any but the high priest to speak aloud and the alias “Lord” (“Baʿal”) was used instead, as “Bel” was used for Marduk and “Adonai” for Yahweh.
Ugaritic records show him as a weather god, with particular power over lightning, wind, rain, and fertility. The dry summers of the area were explained as Baʿal’s time in the underworld and his return in autumn was said to cause the storms which revived the land. Thus, the worship of Baʿal in Canaan—where he eventually supplanted El as the leader of the gods and patron of kingship—was connected to the regions’ dependence on rainfall for its agriculture, unlike Egypt and Mesopotamia, which focused on irrigation from their major rivers.
Anxiety about the availability of water for crops and trees increased the importance of his cult, which focused attention on his role as a rain god. He was also called upon during battle, showing that he was thought to intervene actively in the world of man, unlike the more aloof El. The Lebanese city of Baalbeck was named after Baal.
The Baʿal of Ugarit was the epithet of Hadad but as the time passed, the epithet became the god’s name while Hadad became the epithet. Baʿal was usually said to be the son of Dagan, but appears as one of the sons of El in Ugaritic sources. Both Baʿal and El were associated with the bull in Ugaritic texts, as it symbolized both strength and fertility. The virgin goddess ʿAnat was his sister and sometimes credited with a child through him.
He held special enmity against snakes, both on their own and as representatives of Yammu (lit. “Sea”), the Canaanite sea god and river god. He fought the Tannin (Tunnanu), the “Twisted Serpent” (Bṭn ʿqltn), “Litan the Fugitive Serpent” (Ltn Bṭn Brḥ, the Biblical Leviathan), and the “Mighty One with Seven Heads” (Šlyṭ D.šbʿt Rašm). Baʿal’s conflict with Yammu is now generally regarded as the prototype of the vision recorded in the 7th chapter of the Biblical Book of Daniel.
As vanquisher of the sea, Baʿal was regarded by the Canaanites and Phoenicians as the patron of sailors and sea-going merchants. As vanquisher of Mot, the Canaanite death god, he was known as Baʿal Rāpiʾuma (Bʿl Rpu) and regarded as the leader of the Rephaim (Rpum), the ancestral spirits, particularly those of ruling dynasties.
From Canaan, worship of Baʿal spread to Egypt by the Middle Kingdom and throughout the Mediterranean following the waves of Phoenician colonization in the early 1st millennium BC. He was described with diverse epithets and, prior to the rediscovery of Ugarit, it was supposed that these referred to distinct local gods. However, as explained by Day, the texts at Ugarit revealed that they were considered “local manifestations of this particular deity, analogous to the local manifestations of the Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic Church.”
In those inscriptions, he is frequently described as “Victorious Baʿal” (Aliyn or ẢlỈyn Baʿal), “Mightiest one” (Aliy or ʿAly) or “Mightiest of the Heroes” (Aliy Qrdm), “The Powerful One” (Dmrn), and in his role as patron of the city “Baʿal of Ugarit” (Baʿal Ugarit).
In the interpretatio graeca, Baʿal was usually associated with Jupiter Belus but sometimes connected with Hercules. Belus or Belos in classical Greek or classical Latin texts (and later material based on them) in a Babylonian context refers to the Babylonian god Bel Marduk. Though often identified with Greek Zeus and Latin Jupiter as Zeus Belos or Jupiter Belus, in other cases Belus is euhemerized as an ancient king who founded Babylon and built the ziggurat. He is recognized and worshipped as the God of war.
Eusebius of Caesarea (Praeparatio Evangelica 9.18) cites Artabanus as stating in his Jewish History that Artabanus found in anonymous works that giants who had been dwelling in Babylonia were destroyed by the gods for impiety, but one of them named Belus escaped and settled in Babylon and lived in the tower which he built and named the Tower of Belus.
A little later Eusebius (9.41) cites Abydenus’ Concerning the Assyrians for the information that the site of Babylon: … was originally water, and called a sea. But Belus put an end to this, and assigned a district to each, and surrounded Babylon with a wall; and at the appointed time he disappeared.
This seems to be a rationalized version of Marduk’s defeat of Tiamet in the Enuma Elish followed here by Belus becoming a god. A little earlier in the same section, in a supposed prophecy by King Nebuchadnezzar, King Nebuchadnezzar claims to be descended from Belus.
Melqart (Phoenician: lit. Melek-qart, “King of the City”; Akkadian: Milqartu) was the tutelary god of the Phoenician city of Tyre. Melqart was often titled Ba‘l Ṣūr, “Lord of Tyre”, and considered to be the ancestor of the Tyrian royal family. In Greek, by interpretatio graeca he was identified with Heracles and referred to as the Tyrian Herakles.
Baʿal Hammon, however, was identified with the Greek Cronos and the Roman Saturn (as the “African Saturn”). He was probably never equated with Melqart, although this assertion appears in older scholarship.
Baʿal Hammon and Tanit
Baʿal Hammon was worshipped in the Tyrian colony of Carthage as their supreme god. It is believed that this position developed in the 5th century bce following the severing of its ties to Tyre following the 480 bce Battle of Himera. Like Hadad, Baʿal Hammon was a fertility god. Inscriptions about Punic deities tend to be rather uninformative, though, and he has been variously identified as a moon god and as Dagan, the grain god. Rather than the bull, Baʿal Hammon was associated with the ram and depicted with his horns.
Baal Hammon was the chief god of Carthage. He was a weather god considered responsible for the fertility of vegetation and esteemed as King of the Gods. He was depicted as a bearded older man with curling ram’s horns. Baʿal Hammon’s female cult partner was Tanit, a Punic and Phoenician goddess, the chief deity of Carthage alongside her consort Ba`al Hammon. She was also adopted by the Punic Berber people.
Tanit is also called Tinnit, Tannou or Tangou. The name appears to have originated in Carthage (modern day Tunisia), though it does not appear in local theophorous names. She was equivalent to the moon-goddess Astarte, and later worshipped in Roman Carthage in her Romanized form as Dea Caelestis, Juno Caelestis or simply Caelestis.
In modern-day Tunisian Arabic, it is customary to invoke “Omek Tannou” or “Oumouk Tangou” (Mother Tannou or Tangou depending on the region), in years of drought to bring rain. Similarly, Tunisian and many other spoken forms of Arabic refer to Baali farming to refer to non-irrigated agriculture.
Tyr and Hel
Týr is a Germanic god associated with law and heroic glory in Norse mythology, portrayed as one-handed. Corresponding names in other Germanic languages are Gothic Teiws, Old English Tīw and Old High German Ziu and Cyo, all from Proto-Germanic *Tīwaz. The Latinised name is rendered as Tius or Tio and also formally as Mars Thincsus.
In the late Icelandic Eddas, Týr is portrayed, alternately, as the son of Odin (Prose Edda) or of Hymir (Poetic Edda), while the origins of his name and his possible relationship to Tuisto suggest he was once considered the father of the gods and head of the pantheon, since his name is ultimately cognate to that of *Dyeus (cf. Dyaus), the reconstructed chief deity in Indo-European religion.
It is assumed that Tîwaz was overtaken in popularity and in authority by both Odin and Thor at some point during the Migration Age, as Odin shares his role as God of war.
Týr is a god of war and will take mead, meat and blood for sacrifice. If a warrior carved the rune Tîwaz on his weapon he would be dedicating it to Týr and strengthen the outcome of a battle to be in his favor. Tiw was equated with Mars in the interpretatio germanica. Tuesday is in fact “Tīw’s Day” (also in Alemannic Zischtig from zîes tag), translating dies Martis.
There is sketchy evidence of a consort, in German named Zisa: Tacitus mentions one Germanic tribe who worshipped “Isis”, and Jacob Grimm pointed to Cisa/Zisa, the patroness of Augsburg, in this connection. The name Zisa could be derived from Ziu etymologically.
The Excerptum ex Gallica Historia of Ursberg (ca. 1135) records a dea Ciza as the patron goddess of Augsburg. According to this account, Cisaria was founded by Swabian tribes as a defence against Roman incursions. This Zisa would be the female consort of Ziu, as Dione was of Zeus.
In Norse mythology, Hel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead. In the Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, and Heimskringla, Hel is referred to as a daughter of Loki, and to “go to Hel” is to die.
In the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Hel is described as having been appointed by the god Odin as ruler of a realm of the same name, located in Niflheim. In the same source, her appearance is described as half blue and half flesh-coloured and further as having a gloomy, downcast appearance.
The Prose Edda details that Hel rules over vast mansions with many servants in her underworld realm and plays a key role in the attempted resurrection of the god Baldr.
Scholarly theories have been proposed about Hel’s potential connections to figures appearing in the 11th century Old English Gospel of Nicodemus and Old Norse Bartholomeus saga postola, that she may have been considered a goddess with potential Indo-European parallels in Bhavani, Kali, and Mahakali or that Hel may have become a being only as a late personification of the location of the same name.
Shiva and Parvati/Kali
Kālī, also known as Kālikā, is a Hindu goddess. Kali is one of the ten Mahavidyas, a list which combines Sakta and Buddhist goddesses. Kali’s earliest appearance is that of a destroyer principally of evil forces. She is the goddess of one of the four subcategories of the Kulamārga, a category of tantric Saivism.
Over time, she has been worshipped by devotional movements and tantric sects variously as the Divine Mother, Mother of the Universe, Adi Shakti, or Adi Parashakti. Shakta Hindu and Tantric sects additionally worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman.
She is also seen as divine protector and the one who bestows moksha, or liberation. Kali is often portrayed standing or dancing on her consort, the Hindu god Shiva, who lies calm and prostrate beneath her. Kali is worshipped by Hindus throughout India.
Shiva (Sanskrit: Śiva, lit. the auspicious one) is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. He is the supreme god within Shaivism, one of the three most influential denominations in contemporary Hinduism.
Shiva is “the transformer” within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity that includes Brahma and Vishnu. In Shaivism tradition, Shiva is the Supreme being who creates, protects and transforms the universe. In the goddess tradition of Hinduism called Shaktism, the goddess is described as supreme, yet Shiva is revered along with Vishnu and Brahma.
A goddess is stated to be the energy and creative power (Shakti) of each, with Parvati the equal complementary partner of Shiva. He is one of the five equivalent deities in Panchayatana puja of the Smarta tradition of Hinduism.
At the highest level, Shiva is regarded as formless, limitless, transcendent and unchanging absolute Brahman, and the primal Atman (soul, self) of the universe. Shiva has many benevolent and fearsome depictions.
In benevolent aspects, he is depicted as an omniscient Yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash as well as a householder with wife Parvati, the Hindu goddess of fertility, love and devotion; as well as of divine strength and power, and his two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya (Murugan, Skanda and Subramaniyam), the Hindu god of war. In his fierce aspects, he is often depicted slaying demons. Shiva is also known as Adiyogi Shiva regarded as the patron god of yoga, meditation and arts.
The main iconographical attributes of Shiva are the third eye on his forehead, the serpent around his neck, the adorning crescent moon, the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair, the trishula as his weapon and the damaru. Shiva is usually worshiped in the aniconic form of Lingam. Shiva is a pan-Hindu deity, revered widely across India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the meteorological beginning of spring occurs on the first day of March. The March equinox on the 20th or 21st marks the astronomical beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, where September is the seasonal equivalent of the Northern Hemisphere’s March.
Parvati is the wife of the Hindu god Shiva – the protector and regenerator of universe and all life. She is the daughter of the mountain king Himavan and mother Mena. Parvati is the mother of Hindu deities Ganesha and Kartikeya. Some communities also believe her to be the sister of the god Vishnu and the river-goddess Ganga.
Parvati is the gentle and nurturing aspect of the Hindu goddess Shakti and one of the central deities of the Goddess-oriented Shakta sect. She is the mother goddess in Hinduism, and has many attributes and aspects. In Hindu temples dedicated to her and Shiva, she is symbolically represented as the argha or yoni.
In Hindu belief, she is the recreative energy and power of Shiva, and she is the cause of a bond that connects all beings and a means of their spiritual release. Along with Lakshmi (goddess of wealth and prosperity) and Saraswati (goddess of knowledge and learning), she forms the trinity of Hindu goddesses (Tridevi). With Shiva, Parvati is a central deity in the Shaiva sect.
Several Hindu stories present alternate aspects of Parvati, such as the ferocious, violent aspect as Shakti and related forms. Shakti is pure energy, untamed, unchecked and chaotic. Her wrath crystallizes into a dark, blood-thirsty, tangled-hair Goddess with an open mouth and a drooping tongue. This goddess is usually identified as the terrible Mahakali or Kali (time).
In Linga Purana, Parvati metamorphoses into Kali, on the request of Shiva, to destroy a female asura (demoness) Daruka. Even after destroying the demoness, Kali’s wrath could not be controlled. To lower Kali’s rage, Shiva appeared as a crying baby. The cries of the baby raised the maternal instinct of Kali who resorts back to her benign form as Parvati.
The Puranic Shiva is a continuation of the Vedic Indra. In the Historical Vedic religion, the King of the Gods was Indra. Though Indra still retains the title of the king of the gods and the ruler of heaven, the Trinity of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu assume his protective functions as the Vedic religion evolved into Brahmanical Hinduism. Indra is often considered inferior to the Trinity. Indra, like Shiva, is likened to a bull.
Kartikeya (Kārttikēya; Murugan, Skanda and Subramaniyam) is the Hindu god of war. Fred W. Clothey, in his landmark study The Many Faces of Murukan, cautiously endorses the possibility of a common origin of the ecstatic cults of Dionysus and Murukan in the megalithic culture of the Anatolian plateau and western Iran of ca. 1500 BC.
Historically, Kartikeya was immensely popular in the Indian subcontinent. One of the major Puranas, the Skanda Purana is dedicated to him. In the Bhagavad-Gita (Ch.10, Verse 24), Krishna, while explaining his omnipresence, names the most perfect being, mortal or divine, in each of several categories. While doing so, he says: “Among generals, I am Skanda, the lord of war.” There is a lot of similarities between Jesus and Krishna’s life stories on Earth.
Given that legends related to Murugan are recounted separately in several Hindu epics, some differences between the various versions are observed. Some Sanskrit epics and puranas indicate that he was the elder son of Shiva. This is suggested by the legend connected to his birth; the wedding of Shiva and Parvati being necessary for the birth of a child who would vanquish the asura named Taraka. In South India, it is believed that he is the younger brother of the Ganesha.
According to the Skanda Purana, Kartikeya Muruga was the second son of Shiva and Parvati younger brother to Ganesha. According to the Puranic sources, he incarnated as six sparks emanating from the Third eye of Lord Shiva. According to the Skanda Purana Muruga imprisoned Brahma, protected Vishnu from the asuras and taught the Pranava Mantram to Shiva. Thus Muruga is considered superior to the Trimurti.
Many of the major events in Murugan’s life take place during his youth, and legends surrounding his birth are popular in Tamilnadu. This has encouraged the worship of Murugan as a child-God, very similar to the worship of the child Krishna in north India. He is married to two wives, Valli (“Creeper, Sweet Potato Plant”) and Devasena, often described as the daughter of Indra, the king of the gods. This led to a very interesting name : Devasenapati viz. Pati (husband) of Devsena and/or Senapati (commander in chief) of Dev (gods).
Devasena is betrothed to Kartikeya by Indra, when he becomes the commander-in-chief of the gods. In south-Indian accounts, Devasena is generally depicted as an antithesis of Valli, her co-wife; together they complete the god. Devasena is generally depicted with Kartikeya and often is also accompanied by Valli.
The Sanskrit name of the goddess Devasena means “army of the gods” and thus, her husband is known as Devasenapati (“Lord of Devasena”). The epithet Devasenapati is a pun which also conveys his role as commander-in-chief of the gods.
The several names of Murugan of origin would include the following, Cheyon, Senthil, Vēlaṇ, Kumāran (“prince, child, young one”), Svaminatha (“ruler of the gods”, from -natha king), Saravanan (“born amongs the reeds”), Arumugam or Shanmuga (“six-faced”), Dandapani (“wielder of the mace”, from -pani hand), Guhan or Guruguha (“cave-dweller”), Subrahmanya, Kadhirvelan, Kandhan, Kartikeya (“son of the Krittikas”) and Skanda (“attacker”).
Kartikeya is the Commander-in-Chief of the army of the devas. Kartikeya symbols are based on the weapons – Vel, the Divine Spear or Lance that he carries and his mount the peacock. Vel is a divine javelin (spear) associated with Hindu war god Karthikeya. Spears used by ancient Tamils in warfare were also commonly referred to by this name.
He is sometimes depicted with many weapons including: a sword, a javelin, a mace, a discus and a bow although more usually he is depicted wielding a sakti or spear. This symbolizes his purification of human ills.
His javelin is used to symbolize his far reaching protection, his discus symbolizes his knowledge of the truth, his mace represents his strength and his bow shows his ability to defeat all ills. His peacock mount symbolizes his destruction of the ego. His six heads represent the six siddhis bestowed upon yogis over the course of their spiritual development. This corresponds to his role as the bestower of siddhis.
According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Parvati presented the Vel to her son Murugan as an embodiment of her shakti or power in order to vanquish the evil asura Soorapadman. According to the Skanda Purana, in the war between Murugan and Soorapadman, Murugan used the Vel to defeat all the evil forces of Soorapadman.
When a complete defeat for Soorapadman was imminent, the asura transformed himself into a huge mango tree to evade detection by Murugan. Murugan hurled his Vel and split the mango tree into two halves, one becoming Seval (a rooster) and the other Mayil (a peacock). Henceforth, the peacock became his vahana or mount and the rooster became the emblem on his battle flag.
Taurus and Pleiades (The seven sages)
The Sebitti are a group of seven minor war gods in Babylonian and Akkadian tradition. They are the children of the god Anu and follow the god Erra into battle. They are, in differing traditions, of good and evil influence.
The Apkallu (Akkadian), or Abgal (Sumerian), are seven Mesopotamian sages, demigods who are said to have been created by the god Enki (Akkadian: Ea) to establish culture and give civilization to mankind. They were noted for having been saved during the flood.
They served as priests of Enki and as advisors or sages to the earliest kings of Sumer before the flood. They are credited with giving mankind the Me (moral code), the crafts, and the arts. They were seen as fish-like men who emerged from the sweet water Abzu. They are commonly represented as having the lower torso of a fish, or dressed as a fish.
Murugan is the primary deity of the Kaumaram sect of Hinduism. The first elaborate account of Kartikeya’s origin occurs in the Mahabharata. In a complicated story, he is said to have been born from Agni and Svaha, after the latter impersonated the six of the seven wives of the Saptarishi (Seven Sages). The actual wives then become the Pleiades.
In astronomy, the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, is an open star cluster containing middle-aged, hot B-type stars located in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. The celestial entity has several meanings in different cultures and traditions.
The name “seven sisters” has been used for the Pleiades in the languages of many cultures, including indigenous groups of Australia, North America and Siberia. This suggests that the name may have a common ancient origin.
Taurus (Latin for “the Bull”) is one of the constellations of the zodiac, which means it is crossed by the plane of the ecliptic. As this constellation marked the vernal equinox, it was also the first constellation in the Babylonian zodiac and they described it as “The Bull in Front”.
The Akkadian name was Alu. To the early Hebrews, Taurus was the first constellation in their zodiac and consequently it was represented by the first letter in their alphabet, Aleph. Alalu is god in Hurrian mythology. He is considered to have housed the divine family, because he was a progenitor of the gods, and possibly the father of Earth.
The name “Alalu” was borrowed from Semitic mythology and is a compound word made up of the Semitic definite article al and the Semitic deity Alû. The -u at the end of the word is an inflectional ending; thus, Alalu may also occur as Alali or Alala depending on the position of the word in the sentence. He was identified by the Greeks as Hypsistos. He was also called Alalus.
Alalu was a primeval deity of the Hurrian mythology. After nine years of reign, Alalu was defeated by Anu. Alaluʻs son Kumarbi also defeated Anu, biting and swallowing his genitals, hence becoming pregnant of three gods, among which Teshub who eventually defeated him. Scholars have pointed out the similarities between the Hurrian myth and the story from Greek mythology of Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus. Alalu fled to the underworld.
In Akkadian and Sumerian mythology, Alû is a vengeful spirit of the Utukku that goes down to the underworld Kur. The demon has no mouth, lips or ears. It roams at night and terrifies people while they sleep, and possession by Alû results in unconsciousness and coma; in this manner it resembles creatures such as the mara, and incubus, which are invoked to explain sleep paralysis. In Akkadian and Sumerian mythology, it is associated with other demons like Gallu and Lilu.
To the Egyptians, the constellation Taurus was a sacred bull that was associated with the renewal of life in spring. When the spring equinox entered Taurus, the constellation would become covered by the Sun in the western sky as spring began. This “sacrifice” led to the renewal of the land.
In Greek mythology, Taurus was identified with Zeus, who assumed the form of a magnificent white bull to abduct Europa, a legendary Phoenician princess. In illustrations of Greek mythology, only the front portion of this constellation are depicted; this was sometimes explained as Taurus being partly submerged as he carried Europa out to sea.
A second Greek myth portrays Taurus as Io, a mistress of Zeus. To hide his lover from his wife Hera, Zeus changed Io into the form of a heifer. Greek mythographer Acusilaus marks the bull Taurus as the same that formed the myth of the Cretan Bull, one of The Twelve Labors of Heracles.
In Buddhism, legends hold that Gautama Buddha was born when the Full Moon was in Vaisakha, or Taurus. Buddha’s birthday is celebrated with the Wesak Festival, or Vesākha, which occurs on the first or second Full Moon when the Sun is in Taurus.
Taurus marked the point of vernal (spring) equinox in the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age, from about 4000 BC to 1700 BC, after which it moved into the neighboring constellation Aries. The Pleiades were closest to the Sun at vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC. In Babylonian astronomy, the constellation was listed in the MUL.APIN as GU.AN.NA, “The Bull of Heaven”.
Taurus is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky. It is one of the oldest constellations, dating back to at least the Early Bronze Age when it marked the location of the Sun during the spring equinox. Its importance to the agricultural calendar influenced various bull figures in the mythologies of Ancient Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
A number of features exist that are of interest to astronomers. Taurus hosts two of the nearest open clusters to Earth, the Pleiades and the Hyades, both of which are visible to the naked eye. At first magnitude, the red giant Aldebaran is the brightest star in the constellation. Its name derives from al-dabarān, Arabic for “the follower”, probably from the fact that it follows the Pleiades during the nightly motion of the celestial sphere across the sky.
Forming the profile of a Bull’s face is a V or A-shaped asterism of stars. This outline is created by prominent members of the Hyades, the nearest distinct open star cluster after the Ursa Major Moving Group. In this profile, Aldebaran forms the bull’s bloodshot eye, which has been described as “glaring menacingly at the hunter Orion”, a constellation that lies just to the southwest.
In early Mesopotamian art, the Bull of Heaven was closely associated with Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare. One of the oldest depictions shows the bull standing before the goddess’ standard; since it has 3 stars depicted on its back (the cuneiform sign for “star-constellation”), there is good reason to regard this as the constellation later known as Taurus.
In the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest works of literature, the goddess Ishtar sends Taurus, the Bull of Heaven, to kill Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. Some locate Gilgamesh as the neighboring constellation of Orion, facing Taurus as if in combat, while others identify him with the sun whose rising on the equinox vanquishes the constellation.
In Latin the twins are also known as the Gemini (“twins”), the third astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Gemini, or Castores. Gemini lies between Taurus to the west and Cancer to the east, with Auriga and Lynx to the north and Monoceros and Canis Minor to the south. The Sun resides in the astrological sign of Gemini from June 20 to July 20 each year (though the zodiac dates it May 21 – June 21).
By mid August, Gemini will appear along the eastern horizon in the morning sky prior to sunrise. The best time to observe Gemini at night is overhead during the months of January and February. By April and May, the constellation will be visible soon after sunset in the west.
The easiest way to locate the constellation is to find its two brightest stars Castor and Pollux eastward from the familiar “V” shaped asterism of Taurus and the three stars of Orion’s belt. Another way is to mentally draw a line from the Pleiades star cluster located in Taurus and the brightest star in Leo, Regulus. In doing so, you are drawing an imaginary line that is relatively close to the ecliptic, a line which intersects Gemini roughly at the midpoint of the constellation, just below Castor and Pollux.
Astrologers believe Geminis have a volatile temperament, that their strength however is their versatility, and that their versatility allows them to learn a little about everything and develop skills in many areas. Geminis are considered to hold mysteriously unique artistic and creative abilities unlike other signs. Often considered to be very intelligent individuals, they have a wide appreciation for the arts, philosophy, history and the natural sciences.
They do not like boring people or routine procedures and therefore struggle to deal with authoritative figures. They are enlightened to talk about any subject which they find interesting and where they can stimulate their naturally intellectual personalities.
Ashvini is the first nakshatra (lunar mansion) in Hindu astrology having a spread from 0°-0′-0″ to 13°-20′, corresponding to the head of Aries, including the stars β and γ Arietis. The name aśvinī is used by Varahamihira (6th century). The older name of the asterism, found in the Atharvaveda(AVS 19.7; in the dual) and in Panini (4.3.36), was aśvayúj “harnessing horses”.
The Ashvins are mentioned 376 times in the Rigveda, with 57 hymns specifically dedicated to them. The Nasatya twins are invoked in a treaty between Suppiluliuma and Shattiwaza, kings of the Hittites and the Mitanni respectively.
Aśvaḥ is the Sanskrit word for a horse, one of the significant animals finding references in the Vedas as well as later Hindu scriptures. The corresponding Avestan term is aspa. The word is cognate to Latin equus, Greek hippos, Germanic *ehwaz and Baltic *ašvā all from PIE *hek’wos.
There are repeated references to the horse the Vedas (c. 1500 – 500 BC). In particular the Rigveda has many equestrian scenes, often associated with chariots. The Ashvins are divine twins named for their horsemanship. The earliest undisputed finds of horse remains in South Asia are from the Swat culture (c. 1500 – 500 BC).
The legend states that the first horse emerged from the depth of the ocean during the churning of the oceans. It was a horse with white color and had two wings. It was known by the name of Uchchaihshravas.
The legend continues that Indra, king of the devas, took away the mythical horse to his celestial abode, the svarga (heaven). Subsequently, Indra severed the wings of the horse and presented the same to the mankind. The wings were severed to ensure that the horse would remain on the earth (prithvi) and not fly back to Indra’s svarga.
The Ashvamedha is a horse sacrifice ritual followed by the Śrauta tradition of Vedic religion. It was used by ancient Indian kings to prove their imperial sovereignty: a horse accompanied by the king’s warriors would be released to wander for a period of one year. In the territory traversed by the horse, any rival could dispute the king’s authority by challenging the warriors accompanying it. After one year, if no enemy had managed to kill or capture the horse, the animal would be guided back to the king’s capital. It would be then sacrificed, and the king would be declared as an undisputed sovereign.
In electional astrology, Asvini is classified as a small constellation, meaning that it is believed to be advantageous to begin works of a precise or delicate nature while the moon is in Ashvini. Asvini is ruled by the Ashvins or Ashwini Kumaras (aśvin-, dual aśvinau), in Hindu mythology two Vedic gods, divine twin horsemen in the Rigveda, sons of Saranyu, a goddess of the clouds and wife of Surya in his form as Vivasvant. Personified, Asvini is considered to be the wife of the Asvini Kumaras. Ashvini is represented either by the head of a horse, or by honey and the bee hive.
The Ashvins, the heavenly twins who served as physicians to the gods. symbolise the shining of sunrise and sunset, appearing in the sky before the dawn in a golden chariot, bringing treasures to men and averting misfortune and sickness. They are the doctors of gods and are devas of Ayurvedic medicine.
The heavenly twins appear also in the Indo-European tradition as the effulgent Vedic brother-horsemen the Ashvins, the Lithuanian Ašvieniai, and the Germanic Alcis. The Etruscans venerated the twins as Kastur and Pultuce, collectively the tinas cliniiaras, “sons of Tinia,” the Etruscan counterpart of Zeus. They were often portrayed on Etruscan mirrors.
They are represented as humans with the heads of horses. In the epic Mahabharata, King Pandu’s wife Madri is granted a son by each Ashvin and bears the twins Nakula and Sahadeva who, along with the sons of Kunti, are known as the Pandavas. Their marriage is an example of polyandry in the Rigvedic period.
They are also called Nasatya (dual nāsatyau “kind, helpful”) in the Rigveda; later, Nasatya is the name of one twin, while the other is called Dasra (“enlightened giving”). By popular etymology, the name nāsatya is often incorrectly analysed as na+asatya “not untrue”.
Indian holy books like the Mahabharat and the Puranas, relate that the Ashwini Kumar brothers, the twins, who were Raja-Vaidya (Royal Physicians) to Devas during Vedic times, first prepared the Chyawanprash formulation for Chyawan Rishi at his Ashram on Dhosi Hill near Narnaul, Haryana, India, hence the name Chyawanprash.
Ketu and Rahu
Ashvini is ruled by Ketu, the descending lunar node in Vedic, or Hindu astrology. After the head of Svarbhānu, an Asura, was cut off by God Vishnu, his head and body joined with a snake to form ‘Ketu’, representing the body without a head, and Rahu, representing the head without a body.
According to some accounts in Hindu mythology, Ketu belongs to Jaimini Gotra, whereas Rahu is from Paiteenasa gotra and hence both are totally different entities with distinct characteristics and not two parts of a common body. Ketu is generally referred to as a “shadow” planet. It is believed to have a tremendous impact on human lives and also the whole creation. In some special circumstances it helps someone achieve the zenith of fame. Ketu is often depicted with a gem or star on his head signifying a mystery light.
Astronomically, Rahu and Ketu denote the points of intersection of the paths of the Sun and the Moon as they move on the celestial sphere. Therefore, Rahu and Ketu are respectively called the north and the south lunar nodes. The fact that eclipses occur when the Sun and the Moon are at one of these points gives rise to the understanding of swallowing of the Sun and the Moon by the snake.
In ancient Tamil astrological scripts, Ketu was considered as incarnation of Indra. During a war with Asuras, Indra was defeated and took a passive form and a subtle state as Ketu. Indra spent this time realizing his past mistakes, and failures and that lead to spirituality towards Lord Shiva.
In Hindu astrology Ketu represents karmic collections both good and bad, spirituality and supernatural influences. Ketu signifies the spiritual process of the refinement of materialization to spirit and is considered both malefic and benefic, as it causes sorrow and loss, and yet at the same time turns the individual to God. In other words, it causes material loss in order to force a more spiritual outlook in the person. The people who come under the influence of Ketu can achieve great heights, most of them spiritual.
Ketu is a karaka or indicator of intelligence, wisdom, non-attachment, fantasy, penetrating insight, derangement, and psychic abilities. Ketu is believed to bring prosperity to the devotee’s family, removes the effects of snakebite and illness arising out of poisons. He grants good health, wealth and cattle to his devotees. Ketu is the lord of three nakshatras or lunar mansions: Ashvini, Magha and Mula.
Rahu, being a karmic planet would show the necessity and urge to work on a specific area of life where there had been ignorance in the past life. To balance the apparent dissatisfaction one has to go that extra mile to provide a satisfactory settlement in the present lifetime. When afflicted this “extra mile” is lengthened otherwise it is sometimes given by unforeseen circumstances or achieved through proper discipline.
Ketu, would indicate the areas where unnecessary over-indulgence has been in the past life and to balance the over-satisfaction of the karmic presence there has to be some kind of dissatisfaction in that specific area of life. When afflicted in birth chart this dissatisfaction is imposed forcefully on the soul otherwise it is self-willed.
Castor and Pollux
The Ashvins can be compared with the Dioscuri (the twins Castor and Pollux) of Greek and Roman mythology, and especially to the divine twins Ašvieniai of the ancient Baltic religion.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux or Polydeuces were twin brothers, together known as the Dioskouroi or Dioscuri. Their mother was Leda, but they had different fathers; Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, while Pollux was the divine son of Zeus, who seduced Leda in the guise of a swan.
Though accounts of their birth are varied, they are sometimes said to have been born from an egg, along with their twin sisters and half-sisters Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra. They are sometimes called the Tyndaridae or Tyndarids, later seen as a reference to their father and stepfather Tyndareus.
The Dioscuri were regarded as helpers of humankind and held to be patrons of travellers and of sailors in particular, who invoked them to seek favourable winds. Their role as horsemen and boxers also led to them being regarded as the patrons of athletes and athletic contests. They characteristically intervened at the moment of crisis, aiding those who honoured or trusted them.
They can be recognized in some vase-paintings by the skull-cap they wear, the pilos, which was already explained in antiquity as the remnants of the egg from which they hatched. They are symbolised in the painting by the presence of two pointed caps crowned with laurel, referring to the Phrygian caps they were often depicted wearing.
When Castor was killed, Pollux asked Zeus to let him share his own immortality with his twin to keep them together, and they were transformed into the constellation Gemini. The pair were regarded as the patrons of sailors, to whom they appeared as St. Elmo’s fire, and were also associated with horsemanship.
In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins (MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL). The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.
Amongst the Hurrians and later Hittites Nergal was known as Aplu, a name derived from the Akkadian Apal Enlil, (Apal being the construct state of Aplu) meaning “the son of Enlil”. Aplu may be related with Apaliunas who is considered to be the Hittite reflex of *Apeljōn, an early form of the name Apollo.
Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis. Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name, and indeed the goddess herself, was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: “Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals”. The Arcadians believed she was the daughter of Demeter.
The birth of mankind
Nergal’s chief temple at Cuthah bore the name Meslam, from which the god receives the designation of Meslamtaea, “the one that rises up from Meslam”. The name Meslamtaea indeed is found as early as the list of gods from Fara while the name Nergal only begins to appear in the Akkadian period.
Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people. In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia.
His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.
Istanu (Ištanu; from Hattic Estan, “Sun-god”) was the Hittite and Hattic god of the sun. In Luwian he was known as Tiwaz or Tijaz. He was a god of judgement, and was depicted bearing a winged sun on his crown or head-dress, and a crooked staff.
Týr is a Germanic god associated with law and heroic glory in Norse mythology, portrayed as one-handed. Corresponding names in other Germanic languages are Gothic Teiws, Old English Tīw and Old High German Ziu and Cyo, all from Proto-Germanic *Tīwaz. The Latinised name is rendered as Tius or Tio and also formally as Mars Thincsus.
In the late Icelandic Eddas, Týr is portrayed, alternately, as the son of Odin (Prose Edda) or of Hymir (Poetic Edda), while the origins of his name and his possible relationship to Tuisto (see Tacitus’ Germania) suggest he was once considered the father of the gods and head of the pantheon, since his name is ultimately cognate to that of *Dyeus (cf. Dyaus), the reconstructed chief deity in Indo-European religion.
It is assumed that Tîwaz was overtaken in popularity and in authority by both Odin and Thor at some point during the Migration Age, as Odin shares his role as God of war.
Týr is a god of war and will take mead, meat and blood for sacrifice. If a warrior carved the rune Tîwaz on his weapon he would be dedicating it to Týr and strengthen the outcome of a battle to be in his favor. Tiw was equated with Mars in the interpretatio germanica. Tuesday is in fact “Tīw’s Day” (also in Alemannic Zischtig from zîes tag), translating dies Martis.
According to Tacitus’s Germania (98 CE), Tuisto (or Tuisco) is the divine ancestor of the Germanic peoples. The figure remains the subject of some scholarly discussion, largely focused upon etymological connections and comparisons to figures in later (particularly Norse) Germanic mythology.
The Germania manuscript corpus contains two primary variant readings of the name. Root of the word is from the Hindu Vedic ‘Tvasthar’ – father of Manu. The most frequently occurring, Tuisto, is commonly connected to the Proto-Germanic root *tvai- “two” and its derivative *tvis- “twice” or “doubled”, thus giving Tuisto the core meaning “double”.
Any assumption of a gender inference is entirely conjectural, as the tvia/tvis roots are also the roots of any number of other concepts/words in the Germanic languages. Take for instance the Germanic “twist”, which, in all but the English has the primary meaning of “dispute/conflict”.
The second variant of the name, occurring originally in manuscript E, reads Tuisco. One proposed etymology for this variant reconstructs a Proto-Germanic *tiwisko and connects this with Proto-Germanic *Tiwaz, giving the meaning “son of Tiu”. This interpretation would thus make Tuisco the son of the sky-god (Proto-Indo-European *Dyeus) and the earth-goddess.
Tuisto and Ymir
Connections have been proposed between the 1st century figure of Tuisto and the hermaphroditic primeval being Ymir in later Norse mythology, attested in 13th century sources, based upon etymological and functional similarity.
Meyer (1907) sees the connection as so strong, that he considers the two to be identical. Lindow (2001), while mindful of the possible semantic connection between Tuisto and Ymir, notes an essential functional difference: while Ymir is portrayed as an “essentially … negative figure” – Tuisto is described as being “celebrated” (celebrant) by the early Germanic peoples in song, with Tacitus reporting nothing negative about Tuisto.
Jacob (2005) attempts to establish a genealogical relationship between Tuisto and Ymir based on etymology and a comparison with (post-)Vedic Indian mythology: As Tvastr, through his daughter Saranyū and her husband Vivaswān, is said to have been the grandfather of the twins Yama and Yami, so Jacob argues that the Germanic Tuisto (assuming a connection with Tvastr) must originally have been the grandfather of Ymir (cognate to Yama).
Incidentally, Indian mythology also places Manu (cognate to Germanic Mannus), the Vedic progenitor of mankind, as a son of Vivaswān, thus making him the brother of Yama/Ymir.
In Norse mythology, Ymir, Aurgelmir, Brimir, or Bláinn is the ancestor of all jötnar. Ymir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional material, in the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century, and in the poetry of skalds.
Taken together, several stanzas from four poems collected in the Poetic Edda refer to Ymir as a primeval being who was born from venom that dripped from the icy rivers Élivágar and lived in the grassless void of Ginnungagap. Ymir birthed a male and female from the pits of his arms, and his legs together begat a six-headed being.
The gods Odin, Vili and Vé fashioned the Earth (elsewhere personified as a goddess; Jörð) from his flesh, from his blood the ocean, from his bones the hills, from his hair the trees, from his brains the clouds, from his skull the heavens, and from his eyebrows the middle realm in which mankind lives, Midgard. In addition, one stanza relates that the dwarfs were given life by the gods from Ymir’s flesh and blood (or the Earth and sea).
In the Prose Edda, a narrative is provided that draws from, adds to, and differs from the accounts in the Poetic Edda. According to the Prose Edda, after Ymir was formed from the elemental drops, so too was Auðumbla, a primeval cow, whose milk Ymir fed from.
The Prose Edda also states that three gods killed Ymir; the brothers Odin, Vili and Vé, and details that, upon Ymir’s death, his blood caused an immense flood. Scholars have debated as to what extent Snorri’s account of Ymir is an attempt to synthesize a coherent narrative for the purpose of the Prose Edda and to what extent Snorri drew from traditional material outside of the corpus that he cites.
By way of historical linguistics and comparative mythology, scholars have linked Ymir to Tuisto, the Proto-Germanic being attested by Tacitus in his 1st century AD work Germania and have identified Ymir as an echo of a primordial being reconstructed in Proto-Indo-European mythology.
Manu and Mannus
In Hindu mythology, Manu is the name of the traditional progenitor of humankind who survives a deluge and gives mankind laws. The hypothetically reconstructed Proto-Indo-European form *Manus may also have played a role in Proto-Indo-European religion based on this, if there is any connection with the figure of Mannus — reported by the Roman historian Tacitus in ca. AD 70 to be the name of a traditional ancestor of Germans and son of Tuisto; modern sources other than Tacitus have reinterpreted this as “first man”.
Tacitus relates that “ancient songs” (Latin carminibus antiquis) of the Germanic peoples celebrated Tuisto as “a god, born of the earth” (deum terra editum). These songs further attributed to him a son, Mannus, who in turn had three sons, the offspring of whom were referred to as Ingaevones, Herminones and Istaevones, living near the Ocean (proximi Oceano), in the interior (medii), and the remaining parts (ceteri) of the geographical region of Germania, respectively.
The names Mannus and Tuisto/Tuisco seem to have some relation to Proto-Germanic Mannaz, “man” and Tiwaz, “Tyr, the god”. *Mannaz is the conventional name of the m-rune ᛗ of the Elder Futhark. It is derived from the reconstructed Common Germanic word for “man”, *mannaz.
Tacitus’s report falls squarely within the ethnographic tradition of the classical world, which often fused anthropogony, ethnogony, and theogony together into a synthetic whole. The succession of father-son-three sons parallels occurs in both Germanic and non-Germanic Indo-European areas. The essential characteristics of the myth have been theorized as ultimately originated in Proto-Indo-European society around 2,000 BCE.
According to Rives (1999), the fact that the ancient Germanic peoples claimed descent from an earth-born god was used by Tacitus to support his contention that they were an indigenous population: the Latin word indigena was often used in the same sense as the Greek autochthonos, meaning literally ‘[born from] the land itself’.
Lindauer (1975) notes that, although this claim is to be judged as one made out of simple ignorance of the facts on the part of Tacitus, he was not entirely wrong, as he made the judgement based on a comparison with the relatively turbulent Mediterranean region of his day.
In 1498, a monk named Annio da Viterbo published fragments known as “Pseudo-Berossus”, now considered a forgery, claiming that Babylonian records had shown that Tuiscon or Tuisto, the fourth son of Noah, had been the first ruler of Scythia and Germany following the dispersion of peoples, with him being succeeded by his son Mannus as the second king.
Later historians (e.g. Johannes Aventinus) managed to furnish numerous further details, including the assertion by James Anderson that this Tuiscon was in fact none other than the biblical Ashkenaz, son of Gomer.
In the larger Indo-European pantheon, Tuisto is equated to the Indic/Vedic Tvastar, in the historical Vedic religion, the first-born creator of the universe. The Purusha Sukta refers to the Purusha as Tvastr, who is the visible form of creativity emerged from the navel of the invisible Vishvakarman (Sanskrit for “all-accomplishing, maker of all, all-doer”).
Vishvakarman is the personification of creation and the abstract form of the creator God according to the Rigveda. He is the presiding deity of all Vishwakarma (caste), engineers, artisans and architects. He is believed to be the “Principal Architect of the Universe “, and the root concept of the later Upanishadic figures of Brahman and Purusha.
In the Yajurveda, Purusha Sukta and the tenth mandala of the Rigveda, his character and attributes are merged with the concept of Hiranyagharbha/Prajapathy or Brahma. The term, also transliterated as Tvaṣṭr, nominative Tvaṣṭā, is the heavenly builder, the maker of divine implements, especially Indra’s Vajra and the guardian of Soma.
Tvaṣṭṛ is mentioned 65 times in the Ṛgveda and is the former of the bodies of men and animals,’ and invoked when desiring offspring, called garbha-pati or the lord of the womb. The term Tvaṣṭṛ is mentioned in the Mitanni treaty, which establishes him as a proto-Indo-Iranian divinity.
Similarly, as mentioned in the epic Mahābhārata, Tvaṣṭr is Śukra’s son. Shukra is a Sanskrit word that means “lucid, clear, bright”. It also has other meanings, such as the name of an ancient sage who counseled Asuras in Vedic mythology. In medieval mythology and Hindu astrology, the term refers to the planet Venus, one of the Navagrahas.
Tvaṣṭṛ is sometimes associated or identified with similar deities, such as Savitṛ, Prajāpatī, Vishvakarman and Puṣan. He is a solar deity in the Mahābhārata and the Harivaṃśa, and is said to have made the three worlds with pieces of the Sun god, Surya.
He is the father of Saranyu (also known as Saranya, Sanjna, Sangya, Randal), the goddess of clouds in Hindu mythology, who is the wife of Surya. Saranya is the mother of Revanta (“brilliant”) and the twin Asvins (the Indian Dioscuri). She is also the mother of Manu, and of the twins Yama and Yami.
Saraṇyū is the female form of the adjective saraṇyú, meaning “quick, fleet, nimble”, used for rivers and wind in the Rigveda (compare also Sarayu). According to Farnell, the meaning of the epithet is to be sought in the original conception of Erinys, which was akin to Ge or Ki, Gaia.
Tvastar is also the father of Viśvarūpa or Triśiras, the three-headed son of Tvashta created by Tvashta to dethrone Indra. Triśiras was killed by Indra, and in revenge Tvaṣṭṛ created Vrtra a fearsome dragon. Surprisingly he is also referred to as Indra’s father.
Purusha is a complex concept whose meaning evolved in Vedic and Upanishadic times. Depending on source and historical timeline, it means the cosmic man or Self, Consciousness, and Universal principle.
In early Vedas, Purusa meant a cosmic man whose sacrifice by the gods created all life. This was one of many creation theories discussed in the Vedas. The idea parallels Norse Ymir, with the myth’s origin in Proto-Indo-European religion.
In the Upanishads, the Purusa concept no longer meant a being or cosmic man. The meaning evolved to an abstract essence of Self, Spirit and the Universal Principle that is eternal, indestructible, without form and all pervasive.
The Purusa concept is explained with the concept of Prakrti in the Upanishads. The universe is envisioned, in these ancient Sanskrit texts, as a combination of perceivable material reality and non-perceivable, non-material laws and principles of nature.
Material reality, or Prakrti, is everything that has changed, can change and is subject to cause and effect. Purusa is the Universal principle that is unchanging, uncaused but is present everywhere and the reason why Prakrti changes, evolves all the time and why there is cause and effect. Purusa is what connects everything and everyone, according to various schools of Hinduism.
Bhrgus and Burri
As per the Ṛgveda, Tvaṣṭr belongs to clan of the Bhṛgus. Búri (or Buri) was the first god in Norse mythology. He is the father of Borr or Burr (Old Norse: ‘son’; sometimes anglicized Bor, Bör or Bur), the husband of Bestla, who is a daughter of the giant Bölthorn (spina calamitosa). Burr is the father of Odin, Vili and Ve, and the grandfather of Thor, Baldr, Víðarr and Váli.
The meaning of either Búri or Buri is not known. The first could be related to búr meaning “storage room” and the second could be related to burr meaning “son”. “Buri” may mean “producer”. Búri was formed by the cow Auðumbla licking the salty ice of Ginnungagap during the time of Ymir. The only extant source of this myth is Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda.
The role of Borr in Norse mythology is unclear. Nineteenth-century German scholar Jacob Grimm proposed to equate Borr with Mannus as related in Tacitus’ Germania on the basis of the similarity in their functions in Germanic theogeny.
19th century Icelandic scholar and archaeologist Finnur Magnússon hypothesized that Borr was “intended to signify […] the first mountain or mountain-chain, which it was deemed by the forefathers of our race had emerged from the waters in the same region where the first land made its appearance.
This mountain chain is probably the Caucasus, called by the Persians Borz (the genitive of the Old Norse Borr). Borr’s wife, Belsta or Bestla, is possibly the mass of ice formed on the alpine summits.”
In his Lexicon Mythologicum, published four years later, he modified his theory to claim that Borr symbolized the earth, and Bestla the ocean, which gave birth to Odin as the “world spirit” or “great soul of the earth” (spiritus mundi nostri; terrae magna anima, aëris et aurae numen), Vili or Hoenir as the “heavenly light” (lux, imprimis coelestis) and Vé or Lódur as “fire” (ignis, vel elementalis vel proprie sic dictus).
Kāśyapa and Aditi
Tvaṣṭṛ is mentioned as the son of Kāśyapa, an ancient sage (rishi) who is counted as one of the Saptarishis in the present manvantara, and Aditi (“limitless”), the mother of the gods (devamata) and all twelve zodiacal spirits from whose cosmic matrix the heavenly bodies were born.
As celestial mother of every existing form and being, the synthesis of all things, she is associated with space (akasa) and with mystic speech (Vāc). She may be seen as a feminized form of Brahma and associated with the primal substance (mulaprakriti) in Vedanta.
She is mentioned nearly 80 times in the Rigveda: the verse “Daksha sprang from Aditi and Aditi from Daksha” is seen by Theosophists as a reference to “the eternal cyclic re-birth of the same divine Essence” and divine wisdom.
Kashyapa was an ancient sage (rishi) who is counted as one of the Saptarishis in the present manvantara (the others are Atri, Vashistha, Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja and Gautama Maharishi).
Kashyapa is the claimed author of the treatise Kashyapa Samhita, or Jivakiya Tantra, which is considered a classical reference book on Ayurveda especially in the fields of Ayurvedic pediatrics, gynecology and obstetrics.
Kashyapa is a manasputra (wish-born-son) of Lord Brahma. However, he is also seen as the grand son of Lord Brahma, being the son of Marichi, a wish-born son of Lord Brahma. The Prajapati Daksha gave his thirteen daughters (Aditi, Diti, Kadru, Danu, Arishta, Surasa, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra, Krodhavasha, Ira, Vishva and Muni) in marriage to Kaśyapa.
Yama and Yami
Yami was the first woman, along with her twin brother, Yama in Vedic beliefs. Yama and Yami are a divine pair of creator deities. While Yama is depicted as the Lord of Death, Yami is said to be the Lady of life.
Yama or Yamarāja, also called Imra, is a god of death, the south direction and the underworld, belonging to an early stratum of Rigvedic Hindu deities. In the Zend-Avesta of Zoroastrianism, he is called “Yima”. In Sanskrit, his name can be interpreted to mean “twin”.
In a disputable etymology, W. Meid (1992) has linked the names Yama (reconstructed in Proto-Indo-European as *yemos) and the name of the primeval Norse frost giant Ymir, which can be reconstructed in Proto-Germanic as *umijaz or *jumijaz, in the latter case possibly deriving from PIE
ym̥yos, from the root yem “twin”. In his myth, however, Ymir is not a twin, and only shares with Yama the characteristics of being primeval and mortal. However, Ymir is a hermaphrodite and engenders the race of giants.
According to the Vishnu Purana, his parents are the sun-god Surya and Sanjna, the daughter of Vishvakarman (Sanskrit for “all-accomplishing, maker of all, all-doer”), personification of creation and the abstract form of the creator God according to the Rigveda.
Viśwákarma is the presiding deity of all Vishwakarma (caste), engineers, artisans and architects. He is believed to be the “Principal Architect of the Universe “, and the root concept of the later Upanishadic figures of Brahman and Purusha.
Yama is the brother of Sraddhadeva Manu, the current Manu and the progenitor of the current humanity (manvantara), and of his older sister Yami, which Horace Hayman Wilson indicates to mean the Yamuna. According to Harivamsa Purana her name is Daya. There is a temple in Srivanchiyam, Tamil Nadu dedicated to Yama.
Shraddhadeva was the king of the Dravida Kingdom before the great flood. Forewarned about the flood by the matsya avatara of Vishnu, he saved the humanity by building a boat that carried his family and the saptarishi to safety. He is the son of Vivasvat and is therefore also known as Manuvaivasvata. He is also called Satyavrata (always truthful).
Yamuna is a sacred river in Hinduism and the main tributary of the Ganges (Ganga), the holiest river of Hinduism. The river is worshipped as a Hindu goddess called Yamuna. In the Vedas, Yamuna is known as Yami, while in later literature, she is called Kalindi.
In the Vedas, Yami is associated with her twin brother and partner Yama, the god of death. Later, she is associated with the god Krishna as one of Ashtabharya, his consort as well and plays an important role in his early life as a river. Bathing and drinking Yamuna’s waters is regarded to remove sin.
In the Vedas, Yama is said to have been the first mortal who died. By virtue of precedence, he became the ruler of the departed, and is called “Lord of the Pitrs” (“the fathers”), are the spirits of the departed ancestors in Hindu culture.
The Pitṛs are most primeval deities and they never cease to exist. Some of the Pitṛs dwell in the heavenly abodes while other dwell in the netherworlds. The former who dwell in the heaven were considered as the gods and the gods were also considered as the Pitṛs.
The manuṣyāḥ pitaraḥ (ancestors of human beings) can attain the same level of the divine Pitṛs and live with them in heaven by righteousness. They are often remembered annually. They are reborn at the end of every thousand mahayugas and revive the worlds. From them all the Manus and all progeny at the new creation are produced.
In an myth related to Krishna’s birth, Krishna’s father Vasudeva was carrying the new-born Krishna to safety was crossing the Yamuna River, he asked Yamuna to make a way for him to cross the river, which she did by creating a passage. This was the first time that she saw Krishna whom she marries in later life.
Yamuna wanted to touch the feet of the baby which she did at deeper depths of the river and as a result the river became very calm. Krishna also spent most of youth in Vrindavan on the banks of Yamuna, playing the flute and playing with his lover Radha and the gopis on the banks.
Ying and Yang
In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (“dark—bright”) describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.
The Chinese terms yīn or (“shady side”) and yáng (“sunny side”) are linguistically analyzable in terms of Chinese characters, pronunciations and etymology, meanings, topography, and loanwords. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang.
Yin is the negative/passive/female principle in nature, and includes the the moon, shade, covert, concealed, and hidden while yang is the positive/active/male principle in nature, and includes the sun, the open, overt, belonging to this world.
This duality lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan (t’ai chi), and qigong (Chi Kung), as well as appearing in the pages of the I Ching.
Duality is found in many belief systems, but Yin and Yang are parts of a Oneness that is also equated with the Tao. A term has been coined dualistic-monism or dialectical monism. Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts.
Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation. The yin yang (i.e. taijitu symbol) shows a balance between two opposites with a portion of the opposite element in each section.
In Taoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole. In the ethics of Confucianism on the other hand, most notably in the philosophy of Dong Zhongshu (c. 2nd century BC), a moral dimension is attached to the idea of yin and yang.
De and Wuwei
De (“power; virtue; integrity”) is the term generally used to refer to proper adherence to the Tao; De is the active living or cultivation of the way. Particular things (things with names) that manifest from the Tao have their own inner nature that they follow, in accordance with the Tao, and the following of this inner nature is De.
Wuwei (Pinyin: wúwéi) or ‘naturalness’ are contingent on understanding and conforming to this inner nature, which is interpreted variously from a personal, individual nature to a more generalized notion of human nature within the greater Universe.
Historically, the concept of De differed significantly between Taoists and Confucianists. Confucianism was largely a moral system emphasizing the values of humaneness, righteousness, and filial duty, and so conceived De in terms of obedience to rigorously defined and codified social rules.
Taoists took a broader, more naturalistic/metaphysical view on the relationship between humankind and the Universe, and considered social rules to be at best a derivative reflection of the natural and spontaneous interactions between people, and at worst calcified structure that inhibited naturalness and created conflict.
This led to some philosophical and political conflicts between Taoists and Confucianisms. Several sections of the works attributed to Chuang Tzu are dedicated to critiques of the failures of Confucianism.
Dualism (from the Latin word duo meaning “two”) denotes the state of two parts. The term dualism was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been more generalized in other usages to indicate a system which contains two essential parts.
Moral dualism is the belief of the great complement or conflict between the benevolent and the malevolent. It simply implies that there are two moral opposites at work, independent of any interpretation of what might be “moral” and independent of how these may be represented.
The moral opposites might, for example, exist in a world view which has one god, more than one god, or none. By contrast, ditheism or bitheism implies (at least) two gods. While bitheism implies harmony, ditheism implies rivalry and opposition, such as between good and evil, or bright and dark, or summer and winter. For example, a ditheistic system would be one in which one god is creative, the other destructive.
Alternatively, in ontological dualism, the world is divided into two overarching categories. The opposition and combination of the universe’s two basic principles of yin and yang is a large part of Chinese philosophy, and is an important feature of Taoism, both as a philosophy and as a religion (it is also discussed in Confucianism).
The cosmogenic myth common in Sumer was that of the hieros gamos, a sacred marriage where divine principles in the form of dualistic opposites came together as male and female to give birth to the cosmos.
In Sumerian mythology, a me (Sumerian, conventionally pronounced [mɛ]) or ñe [ŋɛ] or parşu (Akkadian) is one of the decrees of the gods foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores, and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible. They are fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods.
Maat or Ma’at was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. Her ideological counterpart was Isfet.
Isfet or Asfet (meaning “injustice”, “chaos”, or “violence”; as a verb, “to do evil”) is an ancient Egyptian term from Egyptian mythology used in philosophy, which was built on a religious, social and political affected dualism.
Isfet was thought to be the counterpart of the term Ma’at (meaning “(world-) order” or “harmony”). According to ancient Egyptian beliefs, Isfet and Ma’at built a complementary and also paradoxical dualism: one could not exist without its counterpart. Isfet and Ma’at balanced each other. An Egyptian king (pharaoh) was appointed to “achieve” Ma’at, which means that he had to keep and protect justice and harmony by destroying Isfet.
Tao or Dao is a Chinese word signifying ‘way’, ‘path’, ‘route’, ‘key’ or sometimes more loosely ‘doctrine’ or ‘principle’. Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, the Tao is the intuitive knowing of “life” that cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but is known nonetheless through actual living experience of one’s everyday being. The Tao differs from conventional (Western) ontology in that it is an active and holistic practice of the natural order of Nature and its universal awakening, rather than a static, atomistic one.
Laozi in the Tao Te Ching explains that the Tao is not a ‘name’ for a ‘thing’ but the underlying natural order of the Universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe due to it being non conceptual yet evident’ in one’s being of aliveness. The Tao is “eternally nameless” and to be distinguished from the countless ‘named’ things which are considered to be its manifestations, the reality of life before its descriptions of it.
The Tao lends its name to the religious tradition (Wade–Giles, Tao Chiao; Pinyin, Daojiao) and philosophical tradition (Wade–Giles, Tao chia; Pinyin, Daojia) that are both referred to in English with the single term Taoism.
In the Vedic religion, Ṛta (aṛtaṃ “that which is properly/excellently joined; order, rule; truth”) is the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it.
In the hymns of the Vedas, Ṛta is described as that which is ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of the natural, moral and sacrificial orders. Conceptually, it is closely allied to the injunctions and ordinances thought to uphold it, collectively referred to as Dharma, and the action of the individual in relation to those ordinances, referred to as Karma – two terms which eventually eclipsed Ṛta in importance as signifying natural, religious and moral order in later Hinduism.
Sanskrit scholar Maurice Bloomfield referred to Ṛta as “one of the most important religious conceptions of the Rig Veda”, going on to note that, “from the point of view of the history of religious ideas we may, in fact we must, begin the history of Hindu religion at least with the history of this conception”.
Ṛta is derived from the Sanskrit verb root ṛ- “to go, move, rise, tend upwards”, and the derivative noun ṛtam is defined as “fixed or settled order, rule, divine law or truth”. As Mahony (1998) notes, however, the term can just as easily be translated literally as “that which has moved in a fitting manner”, abstractly as “universal law” or “cosmic order”, or simply as “truth”. The latter meaning dominates in the Avestan cognate to Ṛta, aša.
While the concept of Ṛta as an abstract, universal principle generally remained resistant to the anthropomorphic tendencies of the Vedic period, it became increasingly associated with the actions of individual deities, in particular with those of the god Varuna as the omniscient, all-encompassing sky.
As James (1969) notes, Varuna attained the position of “universal Power par excellence maintaining Ṛta” and is celebrated as having “separated and established heaven and earth, spreading them out as the upper and lower firmaments, himself enthroned above them as the universal king, ordering the immutable moral law, exercising his rule by the sovereignty of Ṛta.
Varuna is the Hindu god of water and the celestial ocean, as well as a god of law of the underwater world. A Makara is his mount. His consort is the Hindu goddess Varuni. She represents the purifying nectar of immortality (amrita). She is also “the agent of transcendent wisdom” in Hindu mythology. Originally the chief god of the Vedic pantheon, Varuna was replaced by Indra and later faded away with the ascendancy of Shiva and Vishnu.
Oldenberg (1894) surmised that the concept of Ṛta originally arose in the Indo-Aryan period from a consideration of the natural order of the world and of the occurrences taking place within it as doing so with a kind of causal necessity.
Both Vedic Ṛta and Avestan aša were conceived of as having a tripartite function which manifested itself in the physical, ethical and ritual domains. In the context of Vedic religion, those features of nature which either remain constant or which occur on a regular basis were seen to be a manifestation of the power of Ṛta in the physical cosmos.
In the human sphere, Ṛta was understood to manifest itself as the imperative force behind both the moral order of society as well as the correct performance of Vedic rituals.
The notion of a universal principle of natural order is by no means unique to the Vedas, and Ṛta has been compared to similar ideas in other cultures, such as Ma’at in Ancient Egyptian religion, Moira and the Logos in Greek paganism, and the Tao.
Asha is the Avestan language term (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta) for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called “the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism.” Its Old Persian equivalent is arta-. In Middle Iranian languages the term appears as ard-.
The significance of the term is complex, with a highly nuanced range of meaning. It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of ‘truth’ and ‘right(eousness)’, ‘order’ and ‘right working’.
The word is also the proper name of the divinity Asha, the Amesha Spenta that is the hypostasis or “genius” of “Truth” or “Righteousness”. In the Younger Avesta, this figure is more commonly referred to as Asha Vahishta (Aša Vahišta, Arta Vahišta), “Best Truth”.
The opposite of Avestan aša is druj, “lie.” In Avestan, druj- has a secondary derivation, the adjective drəguuaṇt- (Later Avestan druuaṇt-), “partisan of deception, deceiver” for which the superlative draojišta- and perhaps the comparative draoj(ii)ah- are attested.
The name of March comes from Latin Martius, the first month of the earliest Roman calendar. It was named for Mars, the Roman god of war who was also regarded as a guardian of agriculture and an ancestor of the Roman people through his sons Romulus and Remus.
His month Martius was the beginning of the season for both farming and warfare, and the festivals held in his honor during the month were mirrored by others in October, when the season for these activities came to a close.
Martius remained the first month of the Roman calendar year perhaps as late as 153 BC, and several religious observances in the first half of the month were originally new year’s celebrations. Even in late antiquity, Roman mosaics picturing the months sometimes still placed March first.
Mars and Nerio/Venus
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army. Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming.
Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars. But the character and dignity of Mars differed in fundamental ways from that of his Greek counterpart, who is often treated with contempt and revulsion in Greek literature.
Mars was a part of the Archaic Triad along with Jupiter and Quirinus, the latter of whom as a guardian of the Roman people had no Greek equivalent. Mars’ altar in the Campus Martius, the area of Rome that took its name from him, was supposed to have been dedicated by Numa, the peace-loving semi-legendary second king of Rome.
Although the center of Mars’ worship was originally located outside the sacred boundary of Rome (pomerium), Augustus made the god a renewed focus of Roman religion by establishing the Temple of Mars Ultor in his new forum.
Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people.
In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia. His love affair with Venus, the Roman goddess whose functions encompassed love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity, victory, and desire, symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.
In Roman mythology, she was the mother of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Julius Caesar claimed her as his ancestor. Venus was central to many religious festivals, and was revered in Roman religion under numerous cult titles.
The Romans adapted the myths and iconography of her Greek counterpart Aphrodite for Roman art and Latin literature. In the later classical tradition of the West, Venus becomes one of the most widely referenced deities of Greco-Roman mythology as the embodiment of love and sexuality.
Spring and Summer Triangle
The Spring Triangle is an astronomical asterism involving an imaginary triangle drawn upon the celestial sphere, with its defining vertices at Arcturus, Spica, and Regulus. This triangle connects the constellations of Boötes, Virgo, and Leo. It is visible rising in the south eastern sky of the northern hemisphere between March and May.
George Lovi of Sky & Telescope magazine had a slightly different Spring triangle, including the tail of Leo, Denebola, instead of Regulus. Denebola is dimmer, but the triangle is more nearly equilateral. These stars forms part of a larger Spring asterism called the Great Diamond together with Cor Caroli.
The Summer Triangle is an astronomical asterism involving an imaginary triangle drawn on the northern hemisphere’s celestial sphere, with its defining vertices at Altair, Deneb, and Vega, the brightest stars in the three constellations of Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra, respectively.
Aries is one of the constellations of the zodiac. It is located in the northern celestial hemisphere between Pisces to the west and Taurus to the east. The name Aries is Latin for ram, and its symbol is representing a ram’s horns.
Aries (meaning “ram”) is the first astrological sign in the zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude (0°≤ λ <30°). Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this sign mostly between March 21 and April 19 each year. Under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits Aries from April 15 to May 14 (approximately).
The symbol of the ram is based on the Chrysomallus, the flying ram that provided the Golden Fleece, the fleece of the gold-hair[a] winged ram, which was held in Colchis. The fleece is a symbol of authority and kingship.
According to the tropical system of astrology, the Sun enters the sign of Aries when it reaches the northern vernal equinox, which occurs around March 21. Individuals born between these dates, depending on which system of astrology they subscribe to, may be called Arians or Ariens.
In the description of the Babylonian zodiac given in the clay tablets known as the MUL.APIN, the constellation now known as Aries was the final station along the ecliptic. The MUL.APIN was a comprehensive table of the risings and settings of stars, which likely served as an agricultural calendar. Modern-day Aries was known as MULLÚ.ḪUN.GÁ, “The Agrarian Worker” or “The Hired Man”.
Although likely compiled in the 12th or 11th century BC, the MUL.APIN reflects a tradition which marks the Pleiades as the vernal equinox, which was the case with some precision at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age.
The earliest identifiable reference to Aries as a distinct constellation comes from the boundary stones that date from 1350 to 1000 BC. On several boundary stones, a zodiacal ram figure is distinct from the other characters present.
The shift in identification from the constellation as the Agrarian Worker to the Ram likely occurred in later Babylonian tradition because of its growing association with Dumuzi the Shepherd.
By the time the MUL.APIN was created—by 1000 BC—modern Aries was identified with both Dumuzi’s ram and a hired laborer. The exact timing of this shift is difficult to determine due to the lack of images of Aries or other ram figures.
Tammuz and Inanna
Tammuz (Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “faithful or true son”) is a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia.
In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar.
Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.
Adonis and Aphrodite/Persephone
The Levantine (“lord”) Adonis, who was drawn into the Greek pantheon, was considered by Joseph Campbell among others to be another counterpart of Tammuz, son and consort. The Aramaic name “Tammuz” seems to have been derived from the Akkadian form Tammuzi, based on early Sumerian Damu-zid.
Adonis, in Greek mythology, is a central figure in various mystery religions. In 1966, Wahib Atallah wrote that the “cult of Adonis belonged to women,” and further asserted “the cult of dying Adonis was fully developed in the circle of young girls around Sappho on Lesbos, about 600 BC, as a fragment of Sappho reveals.”
There has been much scholarship over the centuries concerning the multiple roles of Adonis, if any, and his meaning and purpose in Greek religious beliefs. Modern scholarship sometimes describes him as an annually renewed, ever-youthful vegetation god, a life-death-rebirth deity whose nature is tied to the calendar. His name is often applied in modern times to handsome youths, of whom he is the archetype.
The Greek Adōnis was a borrowing from the Canaanite word ʼadōn, meaning “lord”, which is related to Adonai, one of the names used to refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible and still used in Judaism to the present day. Syrian Adonis is Gauas or Aos, akin to Egyptian Osiris, the Semitic Tammuz and Baal Hadad, the Etruscan Atunis and the Phrygian Attis, all of whom are deities of rebirth and vegetation.
In cult practice, the dead Tammuz was widely mourned in the Ancient Near East. Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East, as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day “funeral” for the god.
Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year.
The central myth in its Greek telling: Smyrna, daughter of Theias, king of Assyria, conceives a child by him through trickery. Theias finds out and is determined to kill her, when the gods intervene and turn her into a myrrh tree. Nine months later the baby Adonis comes out of the tree. Aphrodite fell in love with the beautiful youth (possibly because she had been wounded by Eros’ arrow).
Aphrodite sheltered Adonis as a new-born baby and entrusted him to Persephone. Persephone was also taken by Adonis’ beauty and refused to give him back to Aphrodite. The dispute between the two goddesses was settled by Zeus (or by Calliope on Zeus’ behalf): Adonis was to spend one-third of every year with each goddess and the last third wherever he chose. He chose to spend two-thirds of the year with Aphrodite.
Adonis was killed by a wild boar, said to have been sent variously by Artemis, jealous of Adonis’ hunting skills or in retaliation for Aphrodite instigating the death of Hippolytus, a favorite of the huntress goddess; or by Aphrodite’s paramour, Ares, who was jealous of Aphrodite’s love for Adonis; or by Apollo, to punish Aphrodite for blinding his son, Erymanthus. Adonis died in Aphrodite’s arms, who came to him when she heard his groans.
When he died she sprinkled the blood with nectar, from which sprang the short-lived anemone, which takes its name from the wind which so easily makes its petals fall. And so it is the blood of Adonis that each spring turns to red the torrential river, the Adonis River (also known as Abraham River or Nahr Ibrahim in Arabic) in modern Lebanon. Afqa is the sacred source where the waters of the river emerge from a huge grotto in a cliff 200 meters (660 feet) high. It is there that the myth of Astarte (Venus) and Adonis was born.
According to Joseph Campbell the dead and resurrected god Tammuz (Sumerian Dumuzi), became the prototype of the Classical Adonis, who was the consort as well as son by virgin birth, of the goddess-mother of many names: Inanna, Ninhursag, Ishtar, Astarte, Artemis, Demeter, Aphrodite, and Venus.
Astarte was connected with fertility, sexuality, and war. Her symbols were the lion, the horse, the sphinx, the dove, and a star within a circle indicating the planet Venus. Pictorial representations often show her naked. She has been known as the deified morning and/or evening star.
Some ancient sources assert that in the territory of Sidon the temple of Astarte was sacred to Europa. According to an old Cretan story, Europa was a Phoenician princess whom Zeus, having transformed himself into a white bull, abducted, and carried to Crete.
Some scholars claim that the cult of the Minoan snake goddess who is identified with Ariadne (the “utterly pure”) was similar to the cult of Astarte. Her cult as Aphrodite was transmitted to Cythera and then to Greece.
Herodotus wrote that the religious community of Aphrodite originated in Phoenicia and came to Greeks from there. He also wrote about the world’s largest temple of Aphrodite, in one of the Phoenician cities. Her name is the second name in an energy chant sometimes used in Wicca: “Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna.”
Dionysus and Ariadne
Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy in Greek mythology, is presented as son of Zeus and the mortal Semele, thus semi-divine or heroic: and as son of Zeus and Persephone or Demeter, thus both fully divine, part-chthonic and possibly identical with Iacchus of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Dionysus is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy in Greek mythology. Wine played an important role in Greek culture with the cult of Dionysus the main religious focus for unrestrained consumption. He is sometimes categorised as a dying-and-rising god. In his Thracian mysteries, he wears the bassaris or fox-skin, symbolizing a new life.
The dio- element has been associated since antiquity with Zeus (genitive Dios). The second element -nūsos is associated with Mount Nysa, the birthplace of the god in Greek mythology, where he was nursed by nymphs (the Nysiads), but according to Pherecydes of Syros, nũsa was an archaic word for “tree”.
The cult of Dionysus was closely associated with trees, specifically the fig tree, and some of his bynames exhibit this, such as Endendros “he in the tree” or Dendritēs, “he of the tree”. Peters suggests the original meaning as “he who runs among the trees”, or that of a “runner in the woods”.
Janda (2010) accepts the etymology but proposes the more cosmological interpretation of “he who impels the (world-)tree”. This interpretation explains how Nysa could have been re-interpreted from a meaning of “tree” to the name of a mountain: the axis mundi of Indo-European mythology is represented both as a world-tree and as a world-mountain.
Dionysus is a major, popular figure of Greek mythology and religion, becoming increasingly important over time, and is included in some lists of the twelve Olympians. Dionysus was the last god to be accepted into Mt. Olympus. He was the youngest and the only one to have a mortal mother. His festivals were the driving force behind the development of Greek theatre.
In its fully developed form, his central cult imagery shows his triumphant, disorderly arrival or return, as if from some place beyond the borders of the known and civilized. His procession (thiasus) is made up of wild female followers (maenads) and bearded satyrs with erect penises. Some are armed with the thyrsus, some dance or play music.
Also known as Bacchus, the name adopted by the Romans and the frenzy he induces, bakkheia. He is also called Eleutherios (“the liberator”), whose wine, music and ecstatic dance frees his followers from self-conscious fear and care, and subverts the oppressive restraints of the powerful.
Dionysus is drawn in a chariot, usually by exotic beasts such as lions or tigers, and is sometimes attended by a bearded, drunken Silenus. This procession is presumed to be the cult model for the human followers of his Dionysian Mysteries.
Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the deities. Hebat is married to Teshub, the Hurrian god of sky and storm, and is the mother of the god Sarruma (“king of the mountains”) and the goddess Alanzu, as well mother-in-law of the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka.
Sarruma is a son of the weather-god Teshub and the goddess Hebat and brother of the goddess Inara. He is often depicted riding a tiger or panther and carrying an axe (cf. labrys). He is depicted behind his father on the Illuyanka’s relief found in Malatya (dating 1050-850 BC), on display in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, Turkey. His wife is the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka.
Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis. Inara’s mother is probably Hebat and her brother is Sarruma.
After the dragon Illuyanka wins an encounter with the storm god, the latter asks Inara to give a feast, most probably the Purulli festival, a Hattian spring festival, held at Nerik, dedicated to the earth goddess Hannahanna (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”), a Hurrian Mother Goddess who is married to a new king. Hannahannah was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat.
The central ritual of the Puruli festival is dedicated to the destruction of the dragon Illuyanka by the storm god Teshub. The corresponding Assyrian festival is the Akitu of the Enuma Elish. Also compared are the Canaanite Poem of Baal and Psalms 93 and 29.
Inara decides to use the feast to lure and defeat Illuyanka, who was her father’s archenemy, and enlists the aid of a mortal named Hupasiyas of Zigaratta by becoming his lover. The dragon and his family gorge themselves on the fare at the feast, becoming quite drunk, which allows Hupasiyas to tie a rope around them. Inara’s father can then kill Illuyanka, thereby preserving creation.
Inara built a house on a cliff and gave it to Hupasiyas. She left one day with instructions that he was not to look out the window, as he might see his family. But he looked and the sight of his family made him beg to be allowed to return home. It is not known what happened next, but there is speculation that Inara killed Hupasiyas for disobeying her, or for hubris, or that he was allowed to return to his family.
The mother goddess Hannahannah promises Inara land and a man during a consultation by Inara. Inara then disappears. Her father looks for her, joined by Hannahannah with a bee. The story resembles that of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, in Greek myth.
In Hindu mythology, Sarama is a mythological being referred to as the female dog of the gods, or Deva-shuni. She first appears in one of Hinduism’s earliest texts, the Rig Veda, in which she helps the god-king Indra to recover divine cows stolen by the Panis, a class of demons. This legend is alluded to in many later texts, and Sarama is often associated with Indra. The epic Mahabharata, and some Puranas, also make brief reference to Sarama.
Early Rig-Vedic works do not depict Sarama as canine, but later Vedic mythologies and interpretations usually do. She is described as the mother of all dogs, in particular of the two four-eyed brindle dogs of the god Yama, and dogs are given the matronymic Sarameya (“offspring of Sarama”). One scripture further describes Sarama as the mother of all wild animals.
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name, and indeed the goddess herself, was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: “Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals”. The Arcadians believed she was the daughter of Demeter.
In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The deer and the cypress were sacred to her. In later Hellenistic times, she even assumed the ancient role of Eileithyia in aiding childbirth.
Dionysus was a god of resurrection and he was strongly linked to the bull. In a cult hymn from Olympia, at a festival for Hera, Dionysus is invited to come as a bull; “with bull-foot raging”.
Walter Burkert relates, “Quite frequently [Dionysus] is portrayed with bull horns, and in Kyziko she has a tauromorphic image”, and refers also to an archaic myth in which Dionysus is slaughtered as a bull calf and impiously eaten by the Titans.
In the Classical period of Greece, the bull and other animals identified with deities were separated from them as their agalma, a kind of heraldic show-piece that concretely signified their numinous presence.
Dionysus is a god of epiphany, “the god that comes”, and his “foreignness” as an arriving outsider-god may be inherent and essential to his cults. and Scholars of comparative mythology identify both Dionysus and Jesus with the dying-and-returning god mythological archetype.
Epiphany (Koine Greek: Epiphaneia, “Manifestation”, “striking appearance”) or Theophany (Ancient Greek: Τheophaneia meaning “Vision of God”), also known as Three Kings’ Day, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ.
In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles.
Moreover, the feast of the Epiphany, in some Western Christian denominations, also initiates the liturgical season of Epiphanytide. Eastern Christians, on the other hand, commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God.
The traditional date for the feast is January 6. However, since 1970, the celebration is held in some countries on the Sunday after January 1. Eastern Churches following the Julian Calendar observe the Theophany feast on what for most countries is January 19 because of the 13-day difference today between that calendar and the generally used Gregorian calendar.
In many Western Christian Churches, the eve of the feast is celebrated as Twelfth Night. The Monday after Epiphany is known as Plough Monday. The day traditionally saw the resumption of work after the Christmas period.
Iacchus and Zagreus
Dionysus origins are uncertain, and his cults took many forms; some are described by ancient sources as Thracian, others as Greek. In some cults, he arrives from the east, as an Asiatic foreigner; in others, from Ethiopia in the South.
In the Orphism tradition of ancient Greece, he was referred to as Dionysus Zagreus, served as its patron god connected to death and immortality, and symbolized the one who guides reincarnation.
In Greek mythology, Iacchus (also Iacchos, Iakchos) is an epithet of Dionysus, particularly associated with the Mysteries at Eleusis, where he was considered to be the son of Zeus and Demeter.
Iacchus was the torch bearer of the procession from Eleusinion to Eleusis on the sixth day of the greater mysteries, sometimes regarded as the herald of the ‘divine child’ of the Goddess, born in the underworld, and sometimes as the child itself. Iacchus was called “the light-bringing star of our nocturnal rite”, giving him possible associations with Sirius and Sothis.
In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Zagreus was sometimes identified with a god worshipped by the followers of Orphism, the “first Dionysus”, a son of Zeus and Persephone, who was dismembered by the Titans and reborn. However, in the earliest mention of Zagreus, he is paired with Gaia (Earth) and called the “highest” god and Aeschylus links Zagreus with Hades, possibly as Hades’ son, or Hades himself.
Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, tells the story of this Orphic Dionysus, calling him the “older Dionysos … illfated Zagreus”, “Zagreus the horned baby”, “Zagreus, the first Dionysos”, “Zagreus the ancient Dionysos”, and “Dionysos Zagreus”.
Noting “Hades’ identity as Zeus’ katachthonios alter ego”, Gantz thinks it “likely” that Zagreus, originally, perhaps the son of Hades and Persephone, later merged with the Orphic Dionysus, the son of Zeus and Persephone.
The snake and phallus were both symbols of Dionysus in ancient Greece, a symbolism that continued in Roman culture with Bacchus. He typically wears a panther or leopard skin and carries a Thyrsus – a long stick or wand topped with a pine cone. His iconography sometimes includes maenads, who wear wreaths of ivy and serpents around their hair or neck.
Besides the grapevine and its wild barren alter-ego, the toxic ivy plant, both sacred to him, the fig was also his symbol. The pinecone that tipped his thyrsus linked him to Cybele. His thyrsus is sometimes wound with ivy and dripping with honey. It is a beneficent wand but also a weapon, and can be used to destroy those who oppose his cult and the freedoms he represents.
The earliest cult images of Dionysus show a mature male, bearded and robed. He holds a fennel staff, tipped with a pine-cone and known as a thyrsus. Later images show him as a beardless, sensuous, naked or half-naked androgynous youth: the literature describes him as womanly or “man-womanish”.
A thyrsus or thyrsos was a wand or staff of giant fennel (Ferula communis) covered with ivy vines and leaves, sometimes wound with taeniae and always topped with a pine cone.
The thyrsus, associated with Dionysus (or Bacchus) and his followers, the Satyrs and Maenads, is a symbol of prosperity, fertility, hedonism, and pleasure/enjoyment in general. It has been suggested that this was specifically a fertility phallus, with the fennel representing the shaft of the penis and the pine cone representing the “seed” issuing forth.
Sometimes the thyrsus was displayed in conjunction with a kantharos wine cup, another symbol of Dionysus, forming a male-and-female combination like that of the royal scepter and orb.
Karl Kerenyi and Robert Graves theorize that Ariadne (whose name they derive from Hesychius’s listing of Άδνον, a Cretan-Greek form for arihagne, “utterly pure”) was a Great Goddess of Crete, “the first divine personage of Greek mythology to be immediately recognized in Crete”, once archaeology had begun.
Kerenyi observes that her name is merely an epithet and claims that she was originally the “Mistress of the Labyrinth”, both a winding dance-ground and in the Greek view a prison with the dreaded Minotaur at its centre.
In Greek mythology, was the daughter of Minos, King of Crete, Son of Zeus and his queen Pasiphaë, daughter of Helios. She is mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths because of her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus.
According to an Athenian version of the legend, Minos attacked Athens after his son was killed there. The Athenians asked for terms, and were required to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens to the Minotaur every seven or nine years.
One year, the sacrificial party included Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, who volunteered to come and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love at first sight, and helped him by giving him a sword and a ball of thread, so that he could find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth.
Her father put her in charge of the labyrinth where sacrifices were made as part of reparations (either to Poseidon or to Athena, depending on the version of the myth); later, she helped Theseus overcome the Minotaur and save the potential sacrificial victims.
Professor Barry Powell has suggested she was Minoan Crete’s Snake Goddess, the name commonly given to a type of figurine depicting a woman holding a snake in each hand, as were found in Minoan archaeological sites in Crete. The figurines have also been interpreted as showing a mistress of animals-type goddess and as a precursor to Athena Parthenos, who is also associated with snakes.
Powell suggested that the snake goddess reduced in legend into a folklore heroine was Ariadne (utterly pure or the very holy one), who is often depicted surrounded by Maenads and satyrs.
The snake goddess’s Minoan name may be related with A-sa-sa-ra, a possible interpretation of inscriptions found in Linear A texts. Although Linear A is not yet deciphered, Palmer relates tentatively the inscription a-sa-sa-ra-me which seems to have accompanied goddesses, with the Hittite išhaššara, which means “mistress”.
The serpent is often symbolically associated with the renewal of life because it sheds its skin periodically. A similar belief existed in the ancient Mesopotamians and Semites, and appears also in Hindu mythology. The Pelasgian myth of creation refers to snakes as the reborn dead. However, Nilsson noticed that in the Minoan religion the snake was the protector of the house, as it later appears also in Greek religion. Among the Greek Dionysiac cult it signified wisdom and was the symbol of fertility.
Some scholars relate the snake goddess with the Phoenician Astarte (virgin daughter). She was the goddess of fertility and sexuality and her worship was connected with an orgiastic cult. Her temples were decorated with serpentine motifs. In a related Greek myth Europa, who is sometimes identified with Astarte in ancient sources, was a Phoenician princess who Zeus abducted and carried to Crete.
Evans tentatively linked the snake goddess with the Egyptian snake goddess Wadjet but did not pursue this connection. Statuettes similar to the “snake goddess” identified as priest of Wadjud and magician were found in Egypt.
Both goddesses have a knot with a projecting looped cord between their breasts. Evans noticed that these are analogous to the sacral knot, his name for a knot with a loop of fabric above and sometimes fringed ends hanging down below. Numerous such symbols in ivory, faience, painted in frescoes or engraved in seals sometimes combined with the symbol of the double-edged axe or labrys which was the most important Minoan religious symbol.
Such symbols were found in Minoan and Mycenaean sites. It is believed that the sacral knot was the symbol of holiness on human figures or cult-objects. Its combination with the double-axe can be compared with the Egyptian ankh (eternal life), or with the tyet (welfare/life) a symbol of Isis (the knot of Isis).
Wadjet had a famous oracle in the city Per-Wadjet (Greek name Buto). According to Herodotus this may have been the source of the oracular tradition which spread to Greece from Egypt. The serpents were considered the protectors of the temples and the chthonic masters of the ancient earth goddess. In Greece the old oracles were devoted to the mother goddess. According to a Greek legend Apollo came to Delphi carrying Cretan priests, and there he possessed the oracle after slaying the serpent Python, the daughter of Gaia.
In other stories, she became the bride of the god Dionysus, with the question of her being mortal or a goddess varying in those accounts. Ariadne (Etruscan: Areatha) is paired with Dionysus (Etruscan: Fufluns) on engraved bronze Etruscan bronze mirrorbacks, where the Athenian culture-hero Theseus is absent, and Semele (Etruscan: Semla), as mother of Dionysus, may accompany the pair, lending a particularly Etruscan air of family authority.
With the institution of the ritus graecia cereris (Greek rites of Ceres) c.205 BC, Libera was officially identified with Ceres’ daughter Proserpina and acquired with her a Romanised form of Greek mystery rite and attendant mythology, based on Greek cults to Demeter and Persephone. In the late Republican era, Cicero describes Liber and Libera as Ceres’ children. At around the same time, possibly in the context of popular or religious drama, Hyginus equates her with Greek Ariadne, as bride to Liber’s Greek equivalent, Dionysus.
Balder and Nanna
Baldr (“lord, prince, king”) is a god in Norse mythology, who is given a central role in the mythology. Despite this his precise function is rather disputed. He is often interpreted as the god of love, peace, forgiveness, justice, light or purity, but was not directly attested as a god of such. He is the second son of Odin and the goddess Frigg. His twin brother is the blind god Höðr.
In Norse mythology, Nanna Nepsdóttir or simply Nanna is a goddess associated with the god Baldr. Nanna is the wife of Baldr and the couple produced a son, the god Forseti (Old Norse “the presiding one,” actually “president” in Modern Icelandic and Faroese) is an Æsir god of justice and reconciliation in Norse mythology. After Baldr’s death, Nanna dies of grief.
Ekur is a Sumerian term meaning “mountain house”. It is the assembly of the gods in the Garden of the gods, parallel in Greek mythology to Mount Olympus and was the most revered and sacred building of ancient Sumer.
There is a clear association of Ziggurats with mountain houses. Mountain houses play a certain role in Mesopotamian mythology and Assyro-Babylonian religion, associated with deities such as Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursag.
Enlil (EN = Lord + LÍL = Wind, “Lord (of the) Storm”) is the god of breath, wind, loft and breadth (height and distance) is associated with the ancient city of Nippur, sometimes referred to as the cult city of Enlil. His temple was named Ekur, “House of the Mountain.” Enlil was known as the inventor of the mattock (a key agricultural pick, hoe, ax or digging tool of the Sumerians) and helped plants to grow.
Such was the sanctity acquired by this edifice that Babylonian and Assyrian rulers, down to the latest days, vied with one another to embellish and restore Enlil’s seat of worship. Eventually, the name Ekur became the designation of a temple in general.
Grouped around the main sanctuary, there arose temples and chapels to the gods and goddesses who formed his court, so that Ekur became the name for an entire sacred precinct in the city of Nippur. The name “mountain house” suggests a lofty structure and was perhaps the designation originally of the staged tower at Nippur, built in imitation of a mountain, with the sacred shrine of the god on the top.
Enlil was the name of a chief deity listed and written about in Sumerian religion, and later in Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian), Hittite, Canaanite and other Mesopotamian clay and stone tablets. The name is perhaps pronounced and sometimes rendered in translations as “Ellil” in later Akkadian, Hittite, and Canaanite literature. In later Akkadian, Enlil is the son of Anshar and Kishar.
The myth of Enlil and Ninlil discusses when Enlil was a young god, he was banished from Ekur in Nippur, home of the gods, to Kur, the underworld for seducing a goddess named Ninlil. Ninlil followed him to the underworld where she bore his first child, the moon god Sin (Sumerian Nanna/Suen). After fathering three more underworld-deities (substitutes for Sin), Enlil was allowed to return to the Ekur.
As Enlil was the only god who could reach An, the god of heaven, he held sway over the other gods who were assigned tasks by his agent and would travel to Nippur to draw in his power. He is thus seen as the model for kingship. Enlil was assimilated to the north “Pole of the Ecliptic”. His sacred number name was 50.
At a very early period prior to 3000 BC, Nippur had become the centre of a political district of considerable extent. Inscriptions found at Nippur, where extensive excavations were carried on during 1888–1900 by John P. Peters and John Henry Haynes, under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, show that Enlil was the head of an extensive pantheon. Among the titles accorded to him are “king of lands”, “king of heaven and earth”, and “father of the gods”.
In the Hymn to Enlil, the Ekur is closely linked to Enlil whilst in Enlil and Ninlil it is the abode of the Annanuki, from where Enlil is banished. The fall of Ekur is described in the Lament for Ur. In mythology, the Ekur was the centre of the earth and location where heaven and earth were united. It is also known as Duranki and one of its structures is known as the Kiur (“great place”).
Enamtila (É.NAM.TI.LA), a Sumerian term meaning “house of life” or possibly “house of creation”. has also been suggested by Piotr Michalowski to be a part of the Ekur.
A hymn to Nanna illustrates the close relationship between temples, houses and mountains. “In your house on high, in your beloved house, I will come to live, O Nanna, up above in your cedar perfumed mountain”. This was carried-on into later tradition in the Bible by the prophet Micah who envisions “the mountain of the temple of Yahweh”.
The Ekur was seen as a place of judgement and the place from which Enlil’s divine laws are issued. The ethics and moral values of the site are extolled in myths, which Samuel Noah Kramer suggested would have made it the most ethically-oriented in the entire ancient Near East. Its rituals are also described as: “banquets and feasts are celebrated from sunrise to sunset” with “festivals, overflowing with milk and cream, are alluring of plan and full of rejoicing”.
The priests of the Ekur festivities are described with en being the high priest, lagar as his associate, mues the leader of incantations and prayers, and guda the priest responsible for decoration. Sacrifices and food offerings were brought by the king, described as “faithful shepherd” or “noble farmer”.
The Lingam (also linga, ling, Shiva linga, Shiv ling, meaning sign, symbol or phallus) is an abstract or aniconic representation of the Hindu deity, Shiva, used for worship in temples, smaller shrines, or as self-manifested natural objects. In traditional Indian society, the lingam is seen as a symbol of the energy and potential of Shiva himself.
The lingam is often represented alongside the yoni (Sanskrit word, literally “origin” or “source” or “womb”), a symbol of the goddess or of Shakti, female creative energy. The union of lingam and yoni represents the “indivisible two-in-oneness of male and female, the passive space and active time from which all life originates”.
The Sanskrit term, liṅgaṃ, has a number of definitions ranging from symbol to phallus, and more specifically, the “genital organ of Śiva worshipped in the form of a Phallus”. In Shaivite Hindu temples, the lingam is a smooth cylindrical mass symbolising Shiva and is worshipped as a symbol of generative power. It is found at the centre of the temple, often resting in the middle of a rimmed, disc-shaped yoni, a representation of Shakti.
An omphalos is a religious stone artifact, or baetylus. In Greek, the word omphalos means “navel”. In Greek lore, Zeus sent two eagles across the world to meet at its center, the “navel” of the world.
Omphalos stones marking the centre were erected in several places about the Mediterranean Sea; the most famous of those was at Delphi. Omphalos is also the name of the stone given to Cronus.
In the ancient world of the Mediterranean, it was a powerful religious symbol. Omphalos Syndrome refers to the belief that a place of geopolitical power and currency is the most important place in the world.
The omphalos was not only an object of Hellenic religious symbolism and world centrality; it was also considered an object of power. Its symbolic references included the uterus, the phallus, and a cup of red wine representing royal blood lines.
Most accounts locate the Delphi omphalos in the adyton (sacred part of the temple) near the Pythia (oracle). The stone sculpture itself (which may be a copy), has a carving of a knotted net covering its surface, and a hollow center, widening towards the base.
The omphalos represents the stone which Rhea wrapped in swaddling clothes, pretending it was Zeus, in order to deceive Cronus. (Cronus was the father who swallowed his children so as to prevent them from usurping him as he had deposed his own father, Uranus).
Omphalos stones were believed to allow direct communication with the gods. Holland (1933) suggested that the stone was hollow to allow intoxicating vapours breathed by the Oracle to channel through it.
Erwin Rohde wrote that the Python at Delphi was an earth spirit, who was conquered by Apollo and buried under the Omphalos. However, understanding of the use of the omphalos is uncertain due to destruction of the site by Theodosius I and Arcadius in the 4th century CE.
The omphalos at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, represents, in Christian mediaeval tradition, the navel of the world (the spiritual and cosmological centre of the world). Jewish tradition held that God revealed himself to His people through the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple in Jerusalem, which rested on the Foundation stone marking the centre of the world. This tradition may have stemmed from the similar one at Delphi. The omphalos has a collection box chained next to it.
Dionysus and Kataragama: Parallel Mystery Cults